Swords and Debauchery is the Name of the Game

Picture a world populated by superhuman beings who exist over and above (literally) us ‘linear’ mere mortals. Sounds like a conventional enough premise for a literary world of fantasy – much like the elves in JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings saga. But in Scottish author Alistair Rennie’s debut novel Bleakwarrior, these beings are not benevolent symbols of aristocratic purity and mind-splintering beauty. Instead, Rennie’s meta-warriors exist purely to destroy each other.

And destroy each other they do – in sequences of senseless brutality that are as shocking as they are creative, and certainly not for the faint of heart. Released in June through American small press Blood Bound Books, Rennie’s novel expands on two previously published short stories. Although these stories beat the novel to the ‘exclusive’ of unleashing such a searing vision of the fantasy genre onto the world, the novel still feels fresh in many ways – encompassing as it does not just the sheer brutality and erotic charge of the subject matter but – perhaps even more crucially – a sharp authorial voice that is well aware of the genre mechanics he’s playing with.

But what is this both vulgar and complex book actually about? The answer, as the now redundant Upworthy-style headline would have it, might surprise you. For all of its violent and pornographic imagery and set-pieces, and for all of its borrowing from the most pulpy of genres and art forms the core of Rennie’s book is philosophical.

BleakWarrior - a novel by Alistair RennieFor our titular BleakWarrior is determined to discover why, exactly, he and his kind are driven to slaughter each other with no rhyme or reason.

His quest puts him face to face with some of the unsavoury characters he would have had to encounter anyway, but as we’re being told his story, we also discover the complex, intersecting matrix of weirdos that make up Rennie’s secondary world setting.

Rennie writes in a register in which everything is fair game: the classic trappings of a secondary fantasy world, along with weird science, science fictional body modification as well as the monstrous ripping apart of the body that pertains to the horror genre.

Emphatically not a minimalist literary mode, Rennie’s style nonetheless allows him to incorporate a post-modern approach to this crazy mélange. It’s all about pummeling the reader with concepts and images that will etch themselves in the brain, while short-circuiting our expectations of certain genres that we have come to take for granted. Pick up the book if you’d like to have your brain re-wired, and your experience of familiar genres similarly re-jigged.

Alistair Rennie
Alistair Rennie

About the Author:

Alistair Rennie has published dark fantasy and horror fiction, essays and poetry in The New Weird anthology, Weird Tales magazine, Fabulous Whitby, Electric Velocipede, Mythic Delirium, Pevnost, Schlock Magazine, Horror without Victims, Weird Fiction Review and Shadowed Realms. He was born and grew up in the North of Scotland, has lived for ten years in Italy, and now lives in Edinburgh in the South of Scotland. He holds a first class Honours Degree in Literature from the University of Aberdeen and a PhD in Literature from the University of Edinburgh. He is a time served Painter and Decorator and a veteran climber of numerous hills and mountains in the Western Highlands, the Cairngorms and the Italian Dolomites.
Rennie is also a member of the dark arcane music project MONGALIECH.
For more about Alistair Rennie, log on to http://alistairrennie.com/


Read the extended version of this article in VIDA Issue 80