Reactions to Empties by George ZebrowskiAnother reminder I ought to get hold of a bunch of Golden Gryphon books. Quote I would cop for my catalog description: ...(a landscape pulsing with ablated brains, vacant crania, Gotham gorgons, deranged gumshoes, and solipsistic eroticism)...
Review from Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine
Issue: August, 2009
George Zebrowski: Empties, Golden Gryphon, $24.95. Manhattan detective Benek, investigating the death of an old derelict whose skull is missing a brain, encounters a literal femme fatale. This engrossing genre bender combines police procedural, male romantic suspense, science fiction, and/or fantasy, nourish pursuit thriller, and gross-out horror story. An afterword pays tribute to the author’s mentor, Fritz Leiber, whose Conjure Wife was a partial inspiration.
― Jon L. Breen, “The Jury Box”
Review from Booklist
Issue: May 15, 2009
Zebrowski, George (Author) May 2009. 163 p. Golden Gryphon, hardcover, $24.95. (9781930846593).
An outstanding feature of Zebrowki’s large body of speculative fiction is his knack for creating vividly rendered, three-dimensional characters. That talent is fully displayed while recounting the dilemma confronting a bewildered New York detective who encounters a murder suspect possessing the supernatural ability to dislodge her victims’ brains. At first, the sixth precinct’s William Benek doesn’t quite believe what he’s seeing. A bum and a priest both have their brains rapidly and inexplicably removed from their skulls, leaving only blood and corpses behind. Then a possible witness, an aloof but strangely attractive landlady, Dierdre, imprisons Benek for breeding purposes and before his very eyes demonstrates her gruesome gift on small animals. Though Benek manages to escape while Dierdre is away on a killing spree, convincing his superiors that Dierdre’s powers are real proves a pretty daunting task. Sifting in a little intriguing criminal psychology, Zebrowski takes a bizarre premise and whips it into a gripping blend of horror and detective fiction.
— Carl Hays, Booklist
Review from EDGEBoston
Wednesday Mar 25, 2009
Empties by George Zebrowski
Publisher: Golden Gryphon Press. Publication Date: May 1, 2009. Pages: 163. Price: $24.95.
George Zebrowski is a smart writer capable of peering into our possible futures while remaining grounded in the timeless (if in some ways regrettable) essentials of human nature.
The same strengths that serve Zebrowski so well when he’s writing science fiction come into play with his horror stories. In his new novel, Empties, Zebrowski takes aim at the writhing confusion of romance, and mines a deep, pitch-back vein of comedy.
The story starts as a mystery. Who, or what, killed a homeless drunk by removing the man’s brain from his intact skull? The question worries Bill Benek to the point of distraction, even though the coroner shrugs it off as some sort of undeniably clever, if macabre, joke.
Then Benek’s path crosses with that of Dierdre Matera, an aloof, beautiful woman with enough of a connection to the case that Benek can’t help treating her as a suspect... and enough chilly, rough-edged charm that he can’t stop himself from being attracted to her. When the two cross the cop-suspect line, it’s an ethical and professional issue--or would be, if Dierdre hadn’t drugged, kidnapped, and turned Benek into her personal sex toy.
What follows is a mystery even greater than the question of how people’s brains continue to vanish from their skulls all around the city. How can a man continue to subject himself to the agonies and uncertainties of an affair so obviously bound from the start to go wrong? And how can a woman both love and wish to destroy a man, both with equal passion?
The satirical theme--love robs us of all sense, leaving us essentially brainless in the quest to answer a primitive urge--plays into Zebrowski’s long-time philosophical preoccupations. The author has long examined the gulf, and the tension, between animal instinct and intellect; here, he pits the two against one another as never before, with intellect (as in real life) fighting a hopeless war of attrition.
The point is underscored by scenes both grisly and wry; one standout moment takes place in a restaurant, as the brains of the patrons suddenly start tumbling from their heads. Waiters crumple to the floor; gorgeously attired women slump as their brains plummet into bread baskets. It’s a bewildering scene of sheer pandemonium that should clue someone in on the true nature of crimes no one wishes to acknowledge are taking place, but instead the incident is swiftly and efficiently forgotten in a rush to reestablish normalcy.
Between the polar extremes of the head and the gut is the heart, and that’s where Zebrowski sets up his base camp for this excursion into strange territory. Even as the natural order of things seems threatened by the inexplicable goings-on, nature--in its cruelty and implacability--still works to bring Benek and Dierdre together, time and again, each one apprehensive of, and yet fascinated with, the other. This novel is short and frightening, but it’s also funny--and as bold and economical a description of the intricacies of love as you’ll ever read.
― Kilian Melloy
Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.
Review from Baryon
George Zebrowski, Golden Gryphon, $24.95, 163 pages, ISBN: 9781930846593
Has the world gone crazy or is it that you are losing your mind? How can truly weird things be happening and you are the only one who sees them as they are? That’s the problem that is facing police detective, third class William Benek after he is called out early one morning to investigate the death of an old wino. Benek is a loner. He has no friends at work and scarcely speaks to the other residents in his apartment building. He has no girlfriend but does show a passing interest in a new girl in the apartment building. That is until he meets Dierdre Matera at the scene of another strange death. A priest is found dead with his brain on the floor beside the body, as was the earlier wino. Their meeting sets of a chain of events that leads to a strange love affair and Benek wondering about his sanity even more. More deaths occur and Benek is unable to get anyone to believe what he has found out. They think he is losing it. Zebrowski has written a darkly surrealistic comedy noir that is pleasing to read and adds to the list of interesting, thought provoking works of his career. It’s the kind of story David Cronenberg would have made right after SCANNERS. Thanks George, this one’s a gem.
― Barry Hunter
“This has scenes that will stay with you the rest of your natural-born life. Unexplainable things that are somehow true. Takes mystery/horror to a new height.”
― Howard Waldrop, author of The Search for Tom Purdue and The Moone World
“Beauty, it is said, is in the eye of the beholder, but in this eerie contemporary horror tale, that aphorism leads to what may be insanity. In Empties George Zebrowski has taken an unnerving look at the frailties of perception, and the consequences of those frailties. This is an engaging, disturbing read.”
― Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, author of The Saint-Germain Cycle
“George Zebrowski’s Empties takes horror fiction to a place it has never been before―terror incognita, if you will―a landscape pulsing with ablated brains, vacant crania, Gotham gorgons, deranged gumshoes, and solipsistic eroticism. To enhance your disorientation, Golden Gryphon Press has supplied each copy with a small compass whose needle always points to metaphysical north. Enjoy the grim and illuminating journey.”
― James Morrow, author of The Last Witchfinder and The Philosopher’s Apprentice