Review: Factory Town by Jon Bassoff


About Factory Town

Russell Carver, an enigmatic and tortured man in search of a young girl gone missing, has come to Factory Town, a post-industrial wasteland of abandoned buildings, crumbling asphalt, deadly characters, hidden secrets and unspeakable depravity. Wandering deeper and deeper into the dangerous, dream-like and darkly mysterious labyrinths in town, Russell stumbles upon clues that not only lead him closer to the missing girl, but to his own troubled past as well. Because in Factory Town nothing is what it seems, no one is safe, and there's no such thing as a clean escape.

From Jon Bassoff, author of Corrosion, comes a dark, gritty and surreal novel that is at once a compelling mystery and an exploration into the darkest recesses of the human soul. Welcome to the haunting, frightening and disturbing experience that is Russell Carver's search for the truth...

Welcome to FACTORY TOWN.

About the Author

Jon Bassoff was born in 1974 in New York City and currently lives in a ghost town somewhere in Colorado. His mountain gothic novel, CORROSION, was called "startlingly original and unsettling" by Tom Piccirilli, a four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award, and won the DarkFuse Reader's Choice Award for best novel. His surrealistic follow-up, FACTORY TOWN, was called "A hallucinatory descent into an urban hell" by Bram Stoker award-winning author Ramsey Campbell. Both novels have been adapted into films with CORROSION slated to begin filming in 2015.

My Thoughts

Discussing Factory Town is a bit difficult, since its plot hinges so directly on an early action taken by the book's central character, Russell Carver. I'm going to give you a great big SPOILER WARNING for this whole damn review, and it begins now.

The book opens with Carver's suicide with a bullet to his temple, and what follows is a mental sojourn through the shattered mind of a man in his death throes. The material is part nightmare, part memory, part remembrance, all of it filtered through a dying, gunshot shattered brain.

Told in first person point-of-view, author Jon Bassoff takes us through the surreal, fluid dream-scape of Factory Town and its ever-shifting landscape. For instance, Carver enters a run-down, abandoned theater, but exits a hospital. He hears music playing from a radio, but discovers it's actually an a cappella band. These aren't errors of the author or a failing of the editor, so much as it's an effort to capture the "logic," such as it is, of a lucid, waking nightmare. Things shift - people, buildings, the entire town - with the impermanence of a truly screwy dream.

The characters that exist beyond Carver are representations of figures in his own life, stand-ins from his own abusive childhood and the living traumas that were his parents. During Carver's urgent search for Alana, a lost runaway, the narrative is rife with figments of the things that could have been in Carver's own life. Virtually everything in Factory Town is shaped by Carver's personal history and experiences, both the things he remembers and that which he is trying to hide or escape from.

Bassoff uses all of this as a template to explore the repercussions of abuse, and how the sins of the father are inherited by the son. It's a story of the nature of evil, and whether or not we can actually control our destinies. How much of our inner demons are genetically encoded, and how much of is learned behavior? A lot of the horror in this book is buried in symbolism or tucked away in inferences, but there's a few shocks to be had for sure.

I found Factory Town to having a surprising amount of depth, and the writing is crisp with a few fun turns of phrase. One of my favorite lines in the book explains the strangeness of this disturbed city with "All them chemicals leaking into the town's hippocampus..." I also expect this book to be a rather divisive read, depending on one's patience for a rather non-straightforward narrative. This one is a far cry from conventional horror, but rich in character and environment. If you're curious what an abstract, hellish, industrial What Dreams May Come by way of David Lynch might look like, this one is well worth the investment.

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Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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