Resumé with Monsters, William Browning Spencer

White Wolf/Borealis, 1995, 469 pages, C$7.99 mmpb, ISBN 1-56504-913-6

Dilbert meets Lovecraft.

Dynamite concept. Too bad that’s not quite what Resumé with Monsters is really doing.

Granted, there are satirical scenes of worker alienation in office environments. True, the book is filled with explicit references to Lovecraft and his menagerie of slithery, tentacular, unimaginable creatures.

But don’t think that the result is a laugh riot. Or that the expected goodies are delivered in satisfying portions.

Our protagonist is Philip Kenan, a budding writer struggling with a series of low-end job while trying to fulfil his true goal in life; finishing a massive horror novel in the pure Lovecraftian tradition. Except that the monsters are real. They’re following him around. He perceives them where others don’t see anything. But he’s not fooled. A previous encounter with them has cost him his job and his girlfriend. Now he slaves at a print shop, but the creatures are coming back…

Let’s admit up-front that Resumé with Monsters is a very enjoyable book. Breezily written, original in scope and execution, it’s a delightfully weird romp through a modern re-telling of the Lovecraft mythos. The link between modern corporations and soul-sucking monsters that drive you insane is so obvious after the fact that it’s a wonder that no one has thought about writing something of the sort before.

This being said, readers should be cautioned that William Browning Spencer has no aspirations at being the next Scott Adams, and while Resumé with Monsters is a comedy/horror hybrid, the emphasis here should be placed on hybrid. The funniest moments are often simultaneously the most horrific and it’s not as much a guilt-free laugh riot as you may initially think. Chills and chuckles are on the menu. Funny strange rather than funny ha-ha most of the time.

There are a few lulls here and there, especially when our hero gets unstuck in time and bounces around for a few chapters. A few unexpected twists and turns are good for momentary disorientation. Spencer regrettably sustains the “if he crazy or is he not?” ambiguity for far too long after the reader’s indulgence is established. It still ends up gelling quite well by the end, with a curiously sentimental note that does a lot to establish the warm fuzzy impression left by the book.

Don’t be fooled by the novel’s thickness; due to an unusually airy typography, the novel takes maybe a third more space than stories of this length. It makes the reading even easier. Not that you’ll have trouble reading “only a few more pages” of the novel; it would rank as a one-sitting book if it wasn’t for the fact that you’ll want to read it as slowly as possible in order to savour the full effect of the writing. The passages about the protagonists’ past relationship alone are worth careful reading, regardless of Lovecraftian monsters or corporate satire.

In the end, while Resumé with Monsters reasonably exceeds most of the basic requirements for a solid, memorable read, it’s also a victim of its own cleverness. Readers with some imagination will ceize upon the office/horror connection and see possibilities that Spencer might have missed. Certainly worth a look (obviously ranking as a must-read for Lovecraft enthusiasts); but beware the inevitable let-down. After all, even the best books can’t contain everything.

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