Review: Gutmouth by Gabino Iglesias
By Michael Allen Rose
I’m a sucker for dystopian stories, tales of a future where science, love, and humanity have failed us and we have created a horrible, twisted world. In books like Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World, civilization has lost its empathy in addition to its capacity for pleasure, outside of government mandated diversions. In the cyberpunk worlds of Dick, advances in technology have turned our cities into crime-ridden, soulless nightmares of hedonistic anarchy. These stories have a common thread in that the societal circumstances are so well drawn and detailed in their implications that they practically become a character in themselves. Gutmouth, the first novel by Gabino Iglesias, sees the author taking the idea of futurism and dystopia to a noir-soaked and terrifying conclusion. In doing so, the book becomes a disturbing window into a sexually twisted, morally corrupt universe with many dark stories to tell.
Iglesias chooses to focus on the story of the titular Gutmouth, a hard-living hunter, tasked with tracking down criminals for MegaCorp, the corporation that rules society from the top down. These mostly aren’t your typical crimes like rape and murder, but instead such infractions as “growing your own food” and “not paying enough tribute to the corporation.” Like the dystopian stories mentioned previously, the world itself becomes a character here, expertly detailed and fully fleshed out and dripping with fluids. The punishments for crimes in Gutmouth go far beyond anything rational. We see men and women stripped of their skin, whipped and beaten, mutilated and sexually destroyed. The twist is, not all of this is punishment. Some people undergo horrific procedures almost exactly like the penal system dishes and actually pay for it at a “Genital Mutilation and Erotic Maiming Center.” See, there’s this drug called Algolagnix, which turns pain into pleasure at the level of the nerves themselves. Add to that the salamander DNA treatment that allows people to grow back limbs, and it’s perfectly normal to have a fetish that involves your genitalia being sawed in half. Remember kids, always go to a professional.
Gutmouth has enough to deal with between his job and trying to avoid getting on the wrong side of the law. He has a toothy, disgusting, British-inflected mouth living in his gut. Things really go off the rails for him when the mouth in his stomach ends up having sex with his girlfriend, a three-breasted hooker with a heart of gold. The classic trope of the girlfriend cheating with the best friends takes a twisted turn when the “friend” is living inside the protagonist’s torso. Can he bring himself happy revenge through murder? And will that help him with his mouth problem? Iglesias deftly weaves these plot points and characters into a sick and funny noir for his readers. It’s evident that Iglesias is a horror aficionado in addition to a new bizarro author, as the language and concepts he utilizes to describe this crazy world of sex and gore is truly stomach churning. I mean that in the best possible way, this one is a must for fans of off-kilter horror, especially if they enjoy sci-fi twists and fetishistic sex craziness.
The book itself, like all new bizarro author series books, is fairly short, but Iglesias uses his space with the efficiency and deft handling of a veteran. The book is a completely mad ride, tells a simple story with great descriptive effects, and overall is the perfect way to spend an evening in the company of some truly disgusting and awesome characters.