Book Review: ‘The Flame Alphabet’ by Ben Marcus

Book: The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus
Reviewed by: Matthew

It’s a familiar story: the postmodern dysfunctional family that, for one reason or another, seems only glued together by an angsty teenager who wants almost nothing to do with her father (who has been so repeatedly scorned by his daughter, he has come to the idea that showing affection is the emotional equivalent of sticking a bloody hand in a shark tank) or her mother (who is desperately trying to maintain a relationship with her increasingly alienated little girl). In fact, it becomes obvious to everyone that the marriage only survives for the stability of their unstable only child and for their faith – being practiced only out of habit.

Same ol’ plot, eh? Now take into account that the voices of children are causing people to become fatally ill. Add a crazy, underground cult that may or may not be behind it all. A little part about escaping a government ordered quarantine to isolate children from the general population. A few people who just won’t die including a crack scientist who may have predicted it all. Some nursery rhymes and prayers that are meant to kill everyone who hears them. Experimenting on people until their ears run red. Makeshift totalitarian governments. Isolation in a world of people. Isolation in reclusion. The philosophy of language. Heartache. Death. Unfaltering love. Twist after twist. And then……

Someone asked me to explain what this book is like: it’s what I imagine would happen if Lifetime Television hired an in-his-prime Chuck Palahniuk (see: Survivor) to write a drama inspired partially by George Orwell’s 1984 about zombies without actually having anything to do with the undead.

Ben Marcus will read from and sign The Flame Alphabet here at BookPeople on Tuesday, January 24, 7p

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