Book: Felix and the Sacred Thor
Author: James Steele
Type of Book: Bizarro, fiction, novella, bestiality, indescribable
Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: This is one of those times wherein just saying “Bizarro, duh,” doesn’t even begin to cover it. Oh my god, this book is why bizarro exists as a genre because there is no other category that could come close to classifying Steele’s weird book.
Availability: Published by Eraserhead Press in 2010, you can get a copy here:
Comments: Before I dive head first into this book, let’s get Bizarro Week business out of the way. Because I think the New Bizarro Author Series is an amazing idea that needs a lot of attention, I will always give away a free copy when I review any book from this series (and I may give away more books in the future – we’ll see how the old bank account looks after I finally crack and file my taxes). So if you want to enter the drawing to win a free copy of this book, all you have to do is leave me a comment to this entry. So simple. You have until 9:00 pm CST today, 2/17/11, to leave that comment, so get cracking.
I have to be brutally honest here and just get the negative out of the way. This book contains two things I loathe deeply: references to gaming and forced sodomy. Seriously, the former is an irritant and the latter is an OMG because I just get freaked out by the image of so much non-consensual buttsex. I’m a girl. What can I say. It’s all just a part of who I am. So almost needless to say, this book irritated me and made me uncomfortable. Though the forced sodomy is handled in a manner that makes sense in the narrative and because I have reached the limit of what I can tolerate in terms of feminist advocacy with the whole “raped to sleep by dickwolves” situation, I don’t find anything offensive in this book. Don’t mistake being squicked out from time to time with being offended. I mean, it’s a book in which everyone is into bestiality (I had to create a tag for it, and frankly I was surprised I didn’t already have one) and the characters exact justice using very large animal dildos. Honestly, there is no way anyone who is the least bit prudish, easily upset or easily offended should read this book. But then again, most people who are prudish, easily upset or easily offended are likely not reading this site.
I am a woman for whom nothing is shocking once I get used to it so I was not really that put off by the content in this book but man, Steele made me uncomfortable as hell in just the first few pages. Not a “let’s go online and start a flame war” sort of uncomfortableness, but rather an “I need to encase this book in concrete and drop it in the ocean” sort of way. But I got over it and while I cannot wholly say if I like this book in its entirety, I don’t know if it needs that sort of advocacy. It is so demented and bizarre and gross it calls out to be read by every fan of the outre in the same way David Baker’s book does. In fact, I think the world needs to get these two in a room and sweat them out, bottle their salty leavings and pour it on normal people to see what happens. Bloody revolution followed by a really perverted orgy, I suspect. That or issue restraining orders against them so they can never meet. Either way.
But let me be clear – it is a personal reaction, looking at the cartoonish sodomy in this book, a satiric device to show how casually people have come to accept their continual degradation in a society and remembering that horrible scene from American Me. And even within this personal reaction, I can see clearly that Steele is going for the extreme, pushing the envelope in a manner that will either appear hilarious or disturbing to the reader. That is partly why the bizarro genre exists – to write of the extreme, even when it is mixed with technicolor dildos and social justice.
Also, summing up this book is going to be harder than any other bizarro book I have ever discussed but I started a regimen of Prednisone yesterday and feel up to the task: Felix, like everyone else on the planet in this dystopic tale, is overeducated and underemployed. And like most of the people in the world, he has trained to be a Stress Management Specialist. You see, everyone in Steele’s strange world is into animals – those who are into people are the perverts. Felix is an Equine Stress Management Specialist and in an attempt to prove himself as a superior ESMS he tries to jack off a horse except he gets more than he bargained for. He gets the Sacred Thor, an enormous horse johnson that turns different colors and changes size when it “levels” up. It levels up by fighting these sort of nuclear toaster things that have embedded themselves into people, mostly the unemployed who stand in lines for months to get a job. Oh, and getting a job is a fabulous thing in this world because even though the workers are subjected to multiple acts of forced sodomy each shift, customers committing suicide, and surveillance that requires dozens of supervisors per one employee, everyone wants to contribute to the greater good. Oh, and everyone gets sustenance via these places that emit nutritional grease people breathe throughout the day. Felix discovers the source of the toasters, as does a coterie of people also being led by rubber dongs and a strange battle ensued. I cannot reveal the ending but it is suitably dystopic and god, it sets up a sequel and I am secretly thrilled because I wonder how Steele would top himself and want to see that happen.
Despite my only somewhat tongue-in-cheek reaction to the content of this book, the fact remains that this book is steeped in very clever satire about the state of education and worker satisfaction as well the whole idea behind superheroes. Add to it text that is at times funny as hell, and that’s some good incentive to read through what I, as a person with two X-chromosomes, call the icky bits.
This? This was an icky bit. It freaked me out but I can also see how people of a certain mindset would find this deeply interesting. Me? It sent me to Google to search the term “horse sheath” because despite my advanced age and somewhat dissolute past, I am, in many ways, still innocent about the genital workings of horses. Anyway, here’s Felix showing his skills as an ESMS as a chorus of angels sing:
The horse spread its legs a little as the angels added guitars and electric bagpipes to their orchestra. Felix rubbed faster. The bagpipes and violins kept up with his pace. Light from the heaven strobed in time.
Something was different about this horse. For one, nothing has come out of its sheath. Usually, after just a few rubs, a penis would slip out and flop around, ready for Felix to perform various stress management maneuvers that could only be learned in college.
He rubbed harder. Still nothing. Felix had never had trouble finding a horse’s penis before. He felt something inside the sheath, but where was it? Perhaps it was stuck, or clogged from years of non-use? This horse needed help bad.
Okay, so this was uncomfortable. A little. Just wait. Felix observes a galaxy in the horse’s sheath and it goes on from there:
He slipped his arm elbow-deep into the sheath and felt around. There was the universe. He held it in the palm of his hand. He felt the meaning of life, but it was too depressing so he shook it from his mind and forgot about it.
His forearm emerged from the sheath. The angels rang bells and shouted in triumph and jubilation. Felix pulled out to his wrist. The angels performed Rock Concert Movement #75: Group Sex in the Mosh Pit. Felix pulled and pulled, and finally he fell backwards and landed on his rear, horse penis resting in his lap. It was a full two feet long and five inches across the flare.
It was green.
It was translucent, too.
Reached to the elbow… Pulled and pulled… :twitch:
But anyway, this is how Felix gets the Sacred Thor, a powerful weapon that a stallion in the clouds tells him he will know how to use as he spends time with it. The horse eventually explains, later in the book:
“Epic quests don’t involve the internet or TV! They involve sex toys and manly, hard-bodied, larger-than-life heroes defying physics, logic and insurmountable odds, spitting out quotable, highly marketable catchphrases all the while.”
Sad but true and acidly satirical. Pretty funny too.
So Felix takes the Sacred Thor, a life-sized horse dildo, and not knowing exactly what his purpose is, he tries to have sex with the Sacred Thor, which isn’t having it. After lubing it up, hilarity ensues and here is where I knew Steele was a clever writer because he followed up the tense manipulation of a horse sheath with this:
He tried applying lube directly to the Thor, but the Thor shook off all the lube and whacked Felix upside the head.
When he regained consciousness six hours later, he searched the net for advice. Nobody had ever heard of a life-sized horse toy, let alone one that needed to be tamed. Frustrated, Felix tried sucking on the dildo, but every time his lips went near it, the Thor smacked him across the face.
Yeah, I laughed and compared my fate to Felix’s as both of us had been forced to resort to the Internet within the first 11 pages of this book.
Then Felix, who cannot find full employment in the world of horse release, has to work at a store that kind of sounds like Target or Walmart. It is here that there is so much forced sodomy that I just wanted to cry. It’s a terrible place to work. He has many supervisors who give him conflicting tasks and rape him to show dominance. Customers commit suicide at such a rapid pace they begin to smell and no one cleans them out. Felix has the Thor with him at work and good thing too because he first encounters the flying toasters and he and the Thor defeat them.
But that scene, despite the fact that I refuse to quote from it is important because it both shows the dehumanization of workers in this society and how they have come to take rape as their due in order to have a job that doesn’t even pay, but it also explains Steele’s dedication, which I will quote:
This is for everyone who shopped the Christmas season of 2009.
I hate all of you.
Yeah, Steele worked retail, god help him. Maybe even still works it. I know nothing about the man but that dedication and the horrors Felix faces on the job mean I just know, man I know. And believe me, everyone who knew me Christmas season of 1995 when I managed a Nine West store in Lewisville, Texas, knows how close I came to terrible violence. Instead, I had a nervous breakdown. Good times.
Really, at this point I am just quoting passages that I found interesting or funny because unless I just basically reprint the book here I cannot do it justice. Just know there is an epic battle with animal dildos that all change color and get bigger as they “level up.” Ugh. Gaming references. But many of you lack my neurotic aversion to gaming so, you know, it may be okay for you. But this next passage shows even better the work dystopia in Steele’s world. Albert, a pedophile security guard, just wants to make a difference but he can’t. He can’t be a cop and as a security guard, he can really only sit and look at magazines as working makes his bosses suspicious.
Years ago, management sensed its guard might be taking extra breaks when no one was watching, so, to ensure its employees weren’t wasting company time, fourteen cameras were installed and aimed at the guard’s booth. But to do this without spending money on equipment, management moved all fourteen cameras from the factory and placed them around the booth.
In a way, Steele is sort of a combination between J.G. Ballard, Barbara Ehrenreich and that movie Zoo. A perverted dystopia where no one is happy but thinks they are, and forces spend all their time making sure no one spends an extra minute buying a soda at work.
And in places this book is seriously funny:
“What is this place?! Who are you?! Who do you work for?!”
The man gasped. “My name is Pat. This is my novelty toaster company, keeping the American kitchen quaint for nearly a quarter century.”
“Don’t mock me with mission statements! What’s going on here.”
And then there is forcible sodomy again. Again. AGAIN. Sigh…
But there is humor with the butt horror!
A woman, a little older than Felix, carrying something large. He squinted. It was a dildo shaped like a dolphin’s member, except bright pink and about five times longer than it should have been.
Felix studied hard in college. This will not be the first or last time he is able to discern from across a room the animal penis a dildo is based on.
There is a humorous scene with a girl named Martha, or “Tha” for short, and her room walls are screens that show her perpetual IMs and blog posts, as she swirls in a chair and answers messages and e-mails and responds to comments as they show up on her four walls. And don’t worry about how this fits into the book. It does and you should buy the book to find out. But anyway:
Tha heard a noise that did not come from the speakers. It was a loud thud, and it sounded uncompressed. She mentally wrote an emo online journal entry about the disturbing sound. Instantly she received 267 responses expressing sympathy and wishing her good luck making it through the troubling time.
Tha had the urge to write another emo journal entry, but nothing was happening. There was no music. No color. The world was gone. Should she sleep? Did she have to go to the bathroom? There was no way of knowing.
Yep. That was me in 2003. And Facebook wasn’t even a thing yet back then. The world is indeed a strange and horrible place at times and Steele cleverly comments on it whilst thrusting dildos around from scene to scene.
It was about page 61 when the insanity that I have been told is part of my charm was pinged. Let me give you a snippet of the conversation that begins on 60 and continues on to 62:
“Why would I do that?”
“You tell me.”
“Well, I might lie to conceal my true intentions.”
“And I might lie to make myself more important than I really am.”
“I’d believe that.”
“I might also lie to hide the fact that I’m telling the truth.”
“Since I’m not lying, I might tell a lie to satisfy you so we can move on.”
“Or to conceal your plan.”
“Who said I have a plan?”
“Everyone has a plan.”
“Sure they do.”
“No, they don’t.”
“Of course they do.”
“Do I look like I have a plan.”
This is the conversation of a man holding a horse dildo and a man holding a lion dildo. This is either fucking hilarious or deeply insane and, really, no reason it can’t be both.
So we have a society of people who are highly trained to sexually service animals and the market is glutted, where there are no decent jobs and those that are decent require sodomy and seldom pay wages, there are a bunch of people running amok with animal dildos in a place where people eat by breathing grease and there are exploding toasters put into people by a madman whom the spirits behind the dildos want defeated. Got it? This is a seriously deranged, insane, clever, nasty, twitchy, funny book. Like all its bizarro brethren it has too many typos for my tastes but Steele is a man who, like Baker, needs to write a second book. Steele, his use of two of my bugbears aside, is clever, funny and demented. So I say buy this book. I warned you but I also think you should buy it. I read it and I’m just fine. Sort of. Mr. Oddbooks says he wants the statement “Felix had never had trouble finding a horse’s penis before” printed on a t-shirt and I may arrange that for him, so really, this was a win-win situation.
And don’t forget, you should try to win the free copy of this book I am giving away. Leave me a comment here today, 2/17/11 before 9:00 pm, CST and I’ll enter your name into a drawing. It has been asked how I determine the winner. It is literally a drawing. I read the names from all the comments to Mr. Oddbooks, who writes them on slips of paper and folds the pieces of paper up into little squares. He puts the squares into a Tupperware dish, puts the cover on and shakes it all up for a minute. He brings the little dish to me and I close my eyes and pull out a square. I’m sure there is some sort of computer program that could randomize it better but I like this hands-on approach.
23 thoughts on “Felix and the Sacred Thor by James Steele”
And because, like you, sleep evades me too (except for me it’s an every day occurrence since I’m an insomniac) – I’m here reading your review. Okay, so as you already know, I’ve really been looking forward to reading this book.
And then I read the review. I started the review – and I fretted, and frowned, and I was slightly horrified. And then I continued reading, and I started to warm up, and hilarity ensued, what with all the excerpts. I am not surprised by how Steele describes the world of retails – it is death. And he may use sarcasm, exaggeration and inappropriate humor to describe it, but in a nutshell, most jobs in retail ARE akin to rape; perhaps not the physical kind, but definitely the psychological kind! Needless to say, I really loved the review…and I still want to read the book.
Thank you SO much for hosting this giveaway! 🙂 Now, I’m gonna go and practice my MEGABELCH! 😀
See, I have two interesting issues, given the depths to which I read and engage in media. I cannot explain it but I have a visceral hatred of scenes of man-on-man rape. I cannot read it and I cannot witness it in movies. That I was able to read this at all and see any humor in it shows how cartoonish and satirical its use was. It is a symbol, not a specific act, or that’s how I see James’ usage.
This doesn’t apply here but I cannot watch scenes of torture. I can manage it in idiotic movies like Hostel and similar, but otherwise I can’t do it. I can read about it in large amounts however.
But the point is my tastes are not any sort of standard, the act was cartoonish and used in good faith and a satirical device, and the rest of the content bears this out.
And I don’t think the humor in this in inappropriate. It’s dark as a black hole at times but it’s never inappropriate.
I also think it’s good you fretted and were slightly horrified. Strong reaction that does not have genuine disgust at its core is an excellent thing and I respect highly writers who can pull it off. This book was a complete inversion of the American Dream and a damn funny one.
Here’s hoping you win a copy!
Oh hon, you did not dissuade me from wanting to read this book at all, I mean, the review made me see it in a different light, and revealed more aspects of it than I was aware of – but it certainly made me want to read it MORE, in fact! Just that, now, I am better PREPARED for the shocks that might come with the book…but then again, I wouldn’t be surprised with those shocks anyway…James Steele definitely knows how to take the mundane and turn it into something hilarious! 🙂
I just… I don’t even know where to start.
I have a hang up with things like this, not because I’m squimish but because I worry that ability will hamper narrative. I don’t know if it’s possible to believe in such a world with the flippant narrative style expressed in the quotes you posted… nonetheless, I think I might have to try… one day… when I’m better prepared!
Also: I need to apologise to you, having read this, for how many comments I make on twitter per day regarding a certain computer game series. *dies*
Yeah, the world is absolutely unbelievable outside of the sort of over the tip slippery slope tyranny that could get us to such a perversely specialized, over-educated, work is hell sort of place. Much of the plot is quite insane but it was such an aggressive satire that I was able to just let go and let the world happen the way Steele wanted. I mean, the world in David Barbee’s Carnageland was utterly unreal, as are most of Mellick’s worlds.
Ugh, I fear my discussion may dissuade people from buying this book.
And never fear, I can blip out gaming references when I don’t need to read them in a book. I never even noticed many come across my feed. I live with a man who doesn’t so much game as he writes games so I blank over them out of self-preservation more than anything else.
No, no, you got with Ballard ~ any author that can make you bring up a mention of Ballard’s own unique worlds, is enough to make me interested, really.
It’s on my ‘to do’ list… just that it’s a ‘to do’ later rather than sooner. ^^
And thank you for being so forgiving of my gaming content! (^_^)
Also: I just tried to email you but it bounced back alas!
This is the book I most want to win. The novel sounds hilarious, and I don’t really understand why the bizarro genre hasn’t tackled animal dildos (or hasn’t it? I could be wrong). So here I am throwing my lot in.
There’s nothing like a surprise trip down Hershey highway to teach a guy his place in the corporate hierarchy. I must have a demented sense of humour because while reading the juicy bits of this post Mr Hands favorite tune rang in my head http://bit.ly/JKYsH But(t) still,zoophilia,sodomy, and ruthless oppression of the working man all rolled up in one book? This sounds like a keeper
Anita did you get my reply to your e-mail? I’m sorry to hear about your health problems
Hope you are well
G-mail has been a constant torment to me, Ted. I found your message in my spam, which only makes sense since it was a reply to me and of course the fucking filter could only assume it was an unwelcome message. I will respond shortly. I will also be remailing your book in a manner that both our respective postal systems will find sufficiently defiant.
And I’m fine, mostly. I just never sleep and have this neat condition called Sweet’s Syndrome that forces me to take steroids and cry for three weeks straight and then I am good for another four years or so. As health problems go, I am mostly a complainer. 😉
and you managed to organize bizarro week in the midst of all this..and crank up all these wonderful reviews..? Anita you are an inspiration
You have enticed me to comment with this one.
I like books that make people uncomfortable.
As repulsive as the entire premise of this book seems…I feel an overwhelming need to read it. It must be the sense of solidarity I feel with the people who have jobs and receive forced sodomy (figurative in my case, literal in theirs. Or is it the other way around? I forget).
I hope I win the copy in your giveaway, but even if not I think I want to read this and torture my sensibilities a little more : )
Well, Stephen, you are in luck as you won the book. I shall contact you shortly to get your mailing address but for now, bask in the glow of the envy of your peers.
Anita, you make it sound like “uncomfortable” is a bad thing. Even if the description of (homosexual) rape makes you uneasy, at least the writing has the power to produce that emotional reaction in you – which is more than what most mass-market fiction can do in this politically-correct era. Literature should leave you a bit distressed.
I don’t think I portrayed that being uncomfortable is a bad thing – I think the purpose of much fiction is to provoke or upset. But people have preferences and my preferences are that I not read about male rape and that in no way reflects on the quality or validity of Steele’s words. I mean, this entire site is devoted to the outre, violent, upsetting and perverse so all attempts at humor or deflection on my part, I thought it would be pretty clear I support the dark, frightening, sickening and utterly distressing in literature. But I guess it never hurts to reiterate it.
I think that we both expressing the same sentiments.
I’ve found that just as performers often create the best films when they “act against type,” so I’ve discovered that some of best books are those that go against my own preferences. If it makes me queasy, then I know that I am on to a good thing.
Cool. My biggest fear on this site has always been that reviews for books like this or the works of Jim Goad or Peter Sotos would degenerate into arguments about rape culture, which I could tolerate if those who want to engage in such arguments would at least give ground to the idea that all literature does not have to be inclusive, and I think because I want to avoid that, I tend to be… tentative, I guess.
But I just hope my personal issues with male on male rape (which I don’t understand and am surprisingly uninterested in finding out why) won’t dissuade anyone from reading this book.
The older I get the more I find it hard to expose myself to certain provocations. I have a switch that gets turned without warning and when it happens, I have to stop. I always make myself start again because like you I often know that queasy feeling presages excellent work. I had to stop reading a Jack Ketchum novel recently when some degenerate kids killed a man’s beloved dog. I mean, the dog’s death was the entire premise of the book, and I knew that going in, and yet I just felt… shattered. I’ll finish it eventually. Yet I can read the worst Sotos provocation in small doses. I don’t get my psyche and work fervently to make sure that when my decidedly selective aversions spill over into a critique of a book that I insert enough humor and self-deprecation to make it clear the problem lies with me. I hope that’s what happens.
Exactly … I can read a best-seller if I DON’T want to be exposed to a text that challenges me. In contrast, I look for books that produce some sort of emotional reaction in me – it doesn’t necessarily have to be a good reaction, it doesn’t necessarily need to be a positive response, but it needs to be intense.
I remember watching the movie “American History X”, and not entirely being comfortable with the subject matter in it – but my reactions to the movie were strong, and out of something that made me quite queasy came something was absolutely wonderful! I’m hoping the same from this book. Thanks for holding the giveaway…yet again! 🙂
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Hey, be sure to read Steele’s book. If you are into strange sex toys, especially animal dildos, he will cover several bases for you. 🙂