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Get Out Of My Head – Book Review

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by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler...Former teacher... Scientist... Published author... Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published July 6th 2019
Not for everyone; you have been warned
I recently reviewed a new book, a collection of drabbles called Worlds. Well, on the back of that book, I was recommended to read another independent publication.

Get Out Of My Head (Ninth Anniversary Edition) by William Coker is that book.
get out of my head, william coker, book, cover

The ninth anniversary thing is explained in the forward, and there are differences to previous editions, but this is the one I got, so this is the one I shall be reviewing. Now, the book was first released in 2014, so it is a little old now, but independent books deserve our support, and so I am reviewing this one. The reason is, as is usual with thing I review, I enjoyed this book immensely.

On that, I received an email recently asking me if I like everything. No, I don't but if I do not like something I will not review it. As I have mentioned before, giving a negative review is disingenuous, as it is my opinion and I don't want to dump on anyone's art. But if I like something, then I feel I should champion their work. This is positivity.

Okay, the book. This is a strange book. I did not like every story, and some of the themes are quite adult and can be slightly disturbing. But I love the way Coker writes. He has a turn of phrase that is odd and yet compelling. Even in the stories, I was not keen on, there was something about the way they were written that made me read them to the end.

The tales feature many recurring characters – my favourite is Shaolin, of the "immortally wounded" stories – over the course of the 35 works. And he has created a consistent world in this book. Band names appear everywhere, there's a few appearances of clove cigarettes, there is a strange fascination with a peanut butter pick-up line, and there is a definite liking of industrial metal music. Sure, these could all be author avatars, and that's fine; as I said, they have created a world where all of these stories exist with one another. Even though only a few of the stories are interconnected, these little details make the whole collection seem to be coming from the one place.

Overall, my favourite stories were the ones that made up the "immortally wounded" series – and the two interludes are a bit of fun fourth wall breaking (one of my own sales was a similar style of that technique, so I do have a soft spot for them) – with one exception, and Coker finished the book with a new piece where he put elements of many of these into one coherent whole. I'm torn as to which I prefer – the shorts or the whole – so I won't make a call.

One last point before I go into more specifics – there is not one over-arching way of writing. There are short stories, there are internal monologues, there are what could be called scripts, there are letters, there's a newspaper report – the variation does help make this such a readable collection. It is something I don't see enough in anthologies, I feel.

Here are my favourites, my top 8, which is about a quarter of the book. I was going to do ten, but I couldn't get out of the eighteen I had marked. However, the top eight were obvious to me, that is, as I said, a little less than a quarter, and so that seems like a fair number to mention individually.

The opening story is 'immortally wounded 01 (wtc swan dive)', the first (obviously) of the tales in that series. And what an introduction to the character! The detail and description is wonderful and sets a good – and quite creepy – tone for the whole book. This is one of the better opening stories of an anthology I have read in a long time.

Now, I like, like I said a lot of the other tales from this series. 02, 03, the first interlude, and 06 all made my list of favourites. But I am not going to describe them all, because that would be taking away something from the joy of discovery. Having said that, another one will be looked at a little later on…

'cybersex gone wrong, horribly wrong' is an odd tale of internet cybersex that is creepy and weird and strange and yet I found myself really enjoying it. It is written as an online dialogue between two consenting partners, and that makes it feel that little bit more… real. Like I said, odd, and yet well done.

Now we come to my very favourite story in the book – 'don't panic'. It's a wonderfully written and built extension of Orwell's 1984. Replace the name of the president he used and you could well be talking something that could happen literally any day now. It is eerie and too damn real for comfort.

'for auction – one soul, slightly used' admits it follows the trope used on The Simpsons TV show, but the realities of selling a soul to someone else are something I had never considered before, and it is written as quite the depressing tale. Nicely done.

The next tale in the series I am so enamoured with is next: 'immortally wounded 04 (victim number nine)'. It continues the tale of Shaolin, but adds something interesting – how does an immortal keep herself occupied? Well, in this case, it's by seeking vengeance. Not for her, necessarily, but it is gruesome and bloody all the same.

The next tale is definitely an adult one – 'technowhore'. It is a strange tale, almost cyberpunk in tone. It struck me for being one of the few short stories I have read that details how the cybernetic devices and the organic people merge and not always properly. There is a word for the mental feelings that come with this sort of operation, which I can't remember, but this tale shows it. There is a distinct feeling of depression over the story. Nicely written.

The next story – 'a love like ours will never die' – features a different set of recurring characters, but it is a disturbing and deeply worrying story. And yet it still had me enthralled. I know stories like this are a hard sell in today's marketplace, but kudos to Coker for having the guts to put it out there. Not for the squeamish, I am afraid.

The final tale I am going to discuss is 'dance of the mad bastards'. This almost reads like a sociology essay. But the descriptors are so perfect, you can imagine the scene. What the three watched try to do is deplorable, but they do not succeed. Is this a glorification of what they are doing? It does not feel like it; it just makes them seem like sad, disgusting examples of humanity. But the descriptions in this piece – nice.

And there you have it. This book, like I said, is not for everyone. The content can be quite confronting and is also very adult a lot of the time. You will need to enter this book with an open mind and be fully prepared to understand what it is you are going to be reading.

Not for everyone, but I really enjoyed it.

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