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Sunday, June 30, 2024

Review: Invaginies by Joe Koch

    Let me start this review by saying this: Joe Koch’s work is a revelation. Let me also say: Joe Koch is one of the most vital voices working in the horror field today. I have read his new collection, Invaginies, and it blew me away. Joe Koch has quietly been creating a body of work that deserves a wider audience. Let me lend my voice to getting his name out there.

    Invagines showcases Joe Koch’s style, a blend of abstract surrealism and transgressive body horror. In all honesty, most work that falls on the more “experimental” and abstract usually misses me. A lot of work in this mode seems to me to be badly written, using the “experimental” label to excuse lazy writing and a lack of any real ideas. But after having heard his name talked about with excitement in horror literature circles, I knew I had to give his work a chance. Then I read his story “Paranoid Cancers of a Demented Eros” in Sam Richard’s J.G. Ballard tribute anthology Feral Architecture: Ballardian Horrors. And his story just seeped into my body and my psyche like some parasitic vermin or some corrupting video signal. It stayed with me and kept me thinking about it. Unlike most “experimental” work, this was written with precision. Full of interesting ideas, arresting images, and just amazingly lush poetic writing. I knew then that this was a writer to watch. 

    Now having read his collection Invaginies, I  feel Joe Koch is a master of the horror tale. These works fulfill the promise of his previous work I had read. In a field of horror literature that is becoming increasingly bland, safe, and stale, Joe Koch’s work is seductive and dangerous. Whispering secrets that may not be safe to say in the daylight. Contained in Invaginies are tales that delight in the failures of the body, stories that show that sometimes Eros may look like Thanatos and sometimes Thanatos looks like Eros, stories that show disease in full bloom, and how poetry may be made from infection and corruption. 

    In terms of works that Invaginies may have a kinship with, I can see a relation to M. Gira’s The Consumer, William Burroughs's Naked Lunch, some of the more outlandish tales of Clark Ashton Smith, a heavy splash of Kathy Acker and Kathe Koja, and Micheal Blumlein’s The Brains of Rats. I feel now with Invaginies, Joe Koch can be said to be a major figure in horror literature. Now having tasted his deliciously poisonous concoctions, I need more… more…

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