Meet Bill. He’s lazy, he’s unlikeable, he’s a good-for-nothing drunk and he’s not even that great in bed. There is nothing special about Bill.
Well, that’s not quite true. Bill has a parasite.
This isn’t your normal, run of the mill, vomit-inducing parasite. This is a fast-talking, fun-loving, beer hungry parasite, and one that has been entirely reliant on Bill to survive. Up until now. Now he’s changed bodies, and life has gotten a whole lot more interesting.
Cue the gunfights, car chases, drug deals gone bad, knife-wielding pensioners, mob bosses and furries with machine guns. All this before things get REALLY crazy.
Absolute Unit, the latest novella from prolific thriller writer Nick Kolakowski, takes the basic concept of a thriller, dials up the body horror, and puts a blackly comedic twist on the whole thing, the end result being uniquely entertaining and gleefully bonkers.
Reading this book, the closest comparison that comes to mind is Jeff Strand. It has the same dark sense of humour and blistering pacing, making it incredibly readable and hard to put down. This may seem like a lazy comparison (Strand has already tackled the admittedly niche ‘talking parasite buddy horror comedy’ genre with the also excellent ‘Benjamin’s Parasite) but the comparison also stretches to pacing and style, whilst also offering what is, in my opinion, a glowing recommendation. Any comparison to Jeff Strand results in an automatic purchase in my book.
When it comes to horror-comedies, it is a difficult balance to strike but strike it Kolakowski does. It is funny without being overtly jokey or farcical, and has strong and memorable horror elements but avoids making them the focus. What really makes ‘Absolute Unit’ stand out is the characters (and yes, I am including the parasite in that statement). All of the characters are flawed in some way, but some are immensely likeable while others are a lot of fun to hate.
The book starts off fairly low key, introducing us to our freeloading narrator as he describes a mundane day in the life of his current host, Bill. Bill has an unusually action-filled day at work and this sets of a chain of events that escalate things gradually, until you find yourself in a high-speed chase in a delivery car with pizza boxes filled with drugs in the back, being chased by an angry drug lord and two heavily armed people in animal costumes. It’s such a well-paced book that you don’t quite appreciate how wacky things have gotten until you take a step back and think to yourself, “Wow. That sure escalated”.
In fact, I enjoyed the build-up so much, that the ending ended up disappointing me to some extent. This is purely down to personal preference, as the way the story wraps up is interesting, action-packed, unexpected, and totally fits with what has come before. It just isn’t the way I wanted things to go. Without spoiling things, a lot of what I liked about Absolute Unit, particularly the repartee between certain characters, takes a necessary backseat to allow the ending to play out. It was great to be surprised, but I couldn’t help but wish things had gone a little differently.
Absolute Unit is an absolute blast. Kolakowski has crafted something genuinely exceptional and completely entertaining. It may be a little odd, but it is a lot of fun and I can’t imagine any horror fan, no matter what your personal genre preference may be, not having a great time with this book. I can safely say that if you only intend to read one book starring a sarcastic parasite this year, I highly recommend making it this one.
Richard Martin started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatized himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner and an inappropriate amount of books.