BOOK REVIEW: Carnivore by Jonathan Lyon

September 18, 2017


By Jonathan Lyon

This book follows the misadventures of Leander: Queer, druggie, manipulator, friend,  lover, fighter, liar.  Gifted with synaesthesia; a condition where the senses confuse and enhance information and also in constant chronic pain he seeks to rent himself out for BDSM sex as a chance to literally feel something different, or does he? Leander’s recanting of this tale is utterly unreliable in this book and the author enjoys playing with us as much as Leander seems to enjoy the same toying.  We jump right in and follow Leander’s decent into his primal world, described in extra intense tones and the prose sometimes has a life of its own.   With echoes of the narratives of Irvine Welsh, this chemical and narcotic story weaves a mysterious path in and out of reality and perception. The narrator’s perceptions are often twisted by pain, anger, clashing senses or huge doses of heroin so it’s got a pretty gaudy kick to it.

The book pivots half way through and the carefully set up states seems to unravel and hunter becomes hunted and twister is unwoven, there’s not a single normal person in this book, everyone has a huge backstory and everyone is pretty vivid.  I read it in flashes, it reads in chunks and the author has taken time to ensure the reader experiences the world though the drug fuelled warped senses of the anti-hero.  Lyon manages to keep most of this under control and although I wasn’t entirely sure at some parts who was talking to who or what was happening, I just rolled with it and went with the punched.

It’s refreshing to read such a horrible but totally Queer protagonist whose embrace of sexuality and opportunity is fully, apologetically bent. This books reminded me of  Exquisite Corpse, by Poppy Z Brite, it’s got that ‘smack in the face’ (as well as in the veins) quality about it.

There’s a fair amount of gruesome violence in the book and paired with such an apparent series of characters the volte-face of the final few chapters is not quite as plausible as the pace of the constantly rising narrative tension. However that’s a small gripe for what is an interesting and arresting book and if you are a fan of twisted crime, murder or druggy thrillers then you’ll find this book enjoyable.

Lyon has a strong voice and a curious crepuscular turn of phrase, one which he unleashes with full force in this book.  His personal experience of pain and intoxication is also transferred and then carefully explored in the book and provides a jolting  constant background hum/scream which I found difficult to shift after putting this book down.

This is a strong debut novel from Jonathan Lyon. He has the face of an angel but an inquiring and debauched imagination which has given us this compulsive psychoneurotic take on the crime thriller.


For more info or to buy the book see the publisher’s website here