Review: Bleakwarrior by Alistair Rennie

In a weird and decadent world, superhuman beings known as Meta-Warriors are compelled to seek out and destroy each other without truly knowing why. Bleakwarrior is one such being, and he’s tired of being left in the dark.

It’s a rare treat to find a book so unapologetically unique. BLEAKWARRIOR mutilates the boundaries of genre. It’s splattered in the blood of dark fantasy, the New Weird, cyberpunk, and even splatterpunk, but ultimately it belongs only to itself. This uniqueness is felt most strongly in its prose. BLEAKWARRIOR is written in an extremely baroque and often convoluted style that seems like the bastard offspring of a Clark Ashton Smith prose poem and an 18th century philosophical text. It is brutally, defiantly, and unflinchingly complex. Normally I like my prose smooth and concise, but BLEAKWARRIOR’S style was so insistent, so unique, and so beautiful in its own bizarre and somewhat tortuous way that I ended up loving it for what it was. Which is a good thing, because BLEAKWARRIOR has a great deal to offer. The setting is beautifully decadent and bizarre, and so filled with unique and fascinating concepts that it could – and perhaps should – spawn a whole series of spin-offs and sequels. The Meta-Warriors themselves are some of the coolest – and creepiest – anti-heroes to ever be committed to print. They all have fantastically evocative names, like the Bastard Sons of Brawl, The Sisters of No Mercy, and The Ever Decreasing Circle of Choice. Each Meta-Warrior uses a special implement of death that seems intimately bound to their identity. These weapons range from prosaic swords and knives to more interesting items like burning hot coals, pieces of cutlery, and a giant gilded dildo. Their meandering journeys of carnage and chaos encompass moments of hilarity, debauchery, and utmost brutality – often all at once.

I enjoyed every moment of BLEAKWARRIOR, even the parts I found oblique and incomprehensible. I urge anyone with an interest in macabre dark fantasy to give it a go and see if they can appreciate its unique flavour.