Goodreads Review: Six Fang Marks & A Tetanus Shot

Six Fang Marks  a Tetanus ShotSix Fang Marks a Tetanus Shot by Richard de Nooy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m going to start off by saying this book is probably not for everyone. It’s certainly bizarre, being composed primarily of stream-of-consciousness scribblings allegedly cribbed from the primary characters’ journals mixed with a smattering of psychology textbook quotes, primarily on the subject of accident-prone and suicidal people. Untangling the central thread of the narrative is not for the faint of heart. Once you do however, there are some incredibly gut-wrenching nuggets of truth buried within that are – in my opinion, at least – well worth the price of admission.

The central theme is the relationship between a pair of troubled brothers. Rem, an accident-prone, thrill-seeking borderline autistic (and potential psycho/sociopath) and Ace, a failed college student, lab worker and troublemaker who spends much of his time documenting his brother’s insane antics and trying to clean up the messes. It comes off well, with the brothers and their relationship portrayed quite vividly and much more realistically than in most works; Ace and Rem may be dysfunctional, but they share a true bond and it’s on great display, without getting into sappy After School Special territory nor swinging too far in the opposite direction of making them polarized reflections full of spite and venom.

The technical aspects of the novel are solid, with the language being clear and well written – though a bit of a primer in Dutch and South African terminology would likely help the reader – in as much as it’s supposed to be. Admittedly, there are points where the narrative becomes clear as mud, but in every one of those instances I felt as though that was the intention – and they were cleared up eventually – so I don’t feel much need to dock it for those.

Where the book really hits you, however, is the emotional component. After spending a bit of time setting up the weirdness of Rem and Ace’s relationship, up to the point where you’re probably casting Rem as the burly, slow, troublemaker and Ace as the shining knight who covers his brother’s butt, you are treated to the blow by blow (via one character’s recollections and a collection of police interviews) of what happened to a character who had often been referenced but never seen in the book previously. Those revelations – and their reverberations – shatter that initial painting of the characters, and do it extremely well. It’s rare that something in a book comes out of left field (while still having all the seeds planted and ready for observation, had you but noticed…) and punches me in the gut, and this book did it three times. High marks on that count alone.

The final few pages of the book, composed of correspondence and some extra scenes, was also very interesting… not sure if that correspondence was something the author actually engaged in when writing/publishing the book, or if it’s more set dressing to “sell” the rest of the tale but in either case the inclusion was brilliant and intriguing. The extra sections didn’t do much for me – I felt the tale as it had been told was fine enough – but were still of interest.

Overall, I’d say it’s certainly worth a look if you like strange psychological tales (especially in the Chuck P stripe, though this lacks much of the gore that the former is famous for), but should probably be avoided if you’re of the tribe who prefers not to mix too much heavy thought into your reading. Excellent material.

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2 Responses to “Goodreads Review: Six Fang Marks & A Tetanus Shot”

  1. March 1, 2018 at 9:49 AM

    Omg…sounds interesting 🙂 have to find and add it on goodreads now

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