Funland – not as much fun as it could be

funlandFunland ★★
Richard Laymon
Leisure Books, 2010 (1989)
Available Now

No, no, no, no…bad Laymon. Baaaaaad. Okay, this isn’t the worst book I’ve ever read, but for a Laymon book, it’s distinctly horrible, in extremely bad taste, and too dull in too many sections to give it that zap! and zing! I’ve come to expect from him.

The late Richard Laymon is always my go-to guy for a pulpy, sometimes sleazy, never politically correct but always satisfying horror romp. There’s just something so delightfully wicked and deranged about his straightforward, shoot from the hip, slice like a razor blade prose that puts you right into the action and hardly ever relents until the last page is turned.

Once upon a time, Stephen King referred to his own work as the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries. Not a chance Mr. King; even on your worst day you offer up something rich and tasty with complex flavor profiles that linger long in the memory luring readers back over and over again for repeated tastings. Laymon’s books, however (and I love them for this) are a cheeseburger and fries that you wolf down and perhaps groan in pleasure while doing so, then lie back for a satiated moment of stoned out bliss. You’d never want to subsist entirely on a diet of Laymon books, but Jesus, who doesn’t get a craving every now and then for an injection of grease and carbs?

But god help you if you get a bad burger and spend the night in the john or grasping that bottle of Pepto Bismol in your weak and shaky hands (I’m definitely taking this metaphor too far, but seriously, I feel like I just ate a bad burger, and I’m not happy about it). The indigestion is leaving me a little pissy and put out.

This book has its moments that salvage it from the garbage heap completely — the last section in the Funhouse is pretty messed up and unfolds nicely with Laymon’s characteristic cinematic style. Why more of his books have not been made into movies is beyond me. They are the perfect fodder for the slasher crowd. But for the most part, this book is too slow to really get started. The characters are mostly terrible and so dislikable it kept making me curl my lip in distaste.

I’ve pretty much gotten used to Laymon’s standard sex-obsessed male adolescent who ogles all the female characters and thinks nasty, inappropriate things about them in his mind. Doesn’t matter if death is breathing down your neck or some monster is crawling up out of the floor, if there’s any chance of getting laid, these male characters will never pass up an opportunity to cop a feel or make out. This time the level of inappropriate hormone-driven angst is ridiculous, and insulting. The comments made about the girls drove me bananas! Maybe I’m just getting too old for this shit. All I know is my tolerance for blatant male chauvinism bordering on misogyny has whittled down to zero. Laymon tries to balance this with “strong” female leads who are the heroes of the story, but it wasn’t enough to tip the scales for me.

Furthermore, there are huge, long, meandering sections supposedly reserved for “character development” but do much more to bog the story down than enrich it in any way.

Sorry Laymon my man. Rest in peace and all, but this one is a real miss.

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