Welcome to New Belmarsh Penitentiary, a space farm of human meat, where Slicers dispatch fleeing captives and organs are mechanically excised from the flesh and kept alive. Torture and death in a thousand variations await the dying and the damned. After the impact of radioactive, disease-bringing meteorite Uxor77 (presenting a new Year 0), a slow but unrelenting apocalypse is triggered. Earth is poisoned, agriculture compromised. In an already over-exploited environment, this leads to a global food crisis. Only the rich can afford what little vegetables and meat remain clean. Cannibalism is just around the corner.
In the year 41 post-Uxor, countries like New France are heavily militarized and entire districts out of control, such as South Paris 5, governed by the criminal boss Big Blue, an “artist” who collects sadistic human installations. The wealthy dine at illegal cannibalistic restaurants like Le Sphinx Tatoué, where they can have sadistic sex and unorthodox meals with “disposable” prostitutes, while mutated rats compete with human wretches on the streets for scraps of food.
New Moon Corporation is making a profit out of this mess, experimenting with new drugs and breeding humans to produce meat for the rich. To this end, NARAKA, aka New Belmarsh Penitentiary, is built on the Moon, a way to control the spreading criminality by removing from the planet the worst scum of Earth. This includes Kiki Léger, former South Paris 5 prostitute turned professional assassin. In Naraka, inmates are slaughtered, packaged, and delivered to Earth in cans, while a lunatic pedophile priest makes up a new heretic religion. Even worse things happen in the lower layers of the underground, hive-like structure…
Alessandro Manzettis Naraka is such a book.
What makes the whole thing even more interesting is the fact that Manzetti is the founder and owner of Independent Legions Publishing – a publisher I quickly learned to appreciate.
The founder of Independent Legions Publishing writes a book recommended by the monsters of the Splatterpunk-Scene (and fortunately is available in an english translation, as I unfortunately don’t speak italian)?!
»A tutto c’e rimedio fuor che alla morte.«
(There’s a cure for everything but death.)
"Naraka" is a term from Buddhist cosmology. It’s a place of suffering and physical torment and thus corresponds roughly to the term "hell" or "purgatory".
Naraka differs from the hell of Christianity in two ways:
first, beings are not sent to Naraka as the result of a divine judgment or punishment;
secondly, the duration of a being’s stay in Naraka is not eternal, but only a transitional phase of the soul before its rebirth.
It’s difficult to concentrate Naraka: to "reduce" it to one story, one plot; difficult to compensate: to "regulate" what has been seen, has been experienced, has been lived; difficult to articulate: to "transport" this infinity, this transcendence…
Basically we always want to read and speak of an individuality, but here it’s different… and so equal.
Of course it’s individual, but that’s just one facet, just one "hell" (to follow and satisfy the context), Manzetti knows to harbor.
It’s private, it’s personal, it’s almost intimate in a grotesque way, how you follow Kiki Léger as a reader, as a third person, as yourself, sometimes even as
hell Naraka. How you accompany her on her road.
Kiki, the protagonist – as you’d normally write; here fate. Here road. Here the road of destiny you tread!
And perhaps that’s the biggest difference, Manzettis masterstroke, the hells (plural!) that are waiting here:
Naraka isn’t just a book about a protagonist, a fate, which you pursue and (in the best case) experience – no! – it’s the (personalized) road of destiny, taken by each of us.
The concentrate: reduction of origin.
The compensation: regulation of consequence.
The articulation: transport of persistence.
Three hells, that are waiting for the reader, who’s thrown into purgatory – three parts: Naraka, Kalasutra and Samghata.
The first part, Naraka, abducts me to Butcher Bay (The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, Starbreeze Studios, 2004) – this living post-apocalypse far away from any homeland; in addition the dystopic basic-mood from Alien – Resurrection (OT: Alien: Resurrection, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1997) mixed with the madness of A Scanner darkly (Philip K. Dick, 1977).
No pulling, no tearing – a tranquil welcome to hell.
It seems you less read than experience, than reveal with each further page, what we have let become of ourselves – the sickness of our work.
This raw piece of flesh, what it seems to be, what I hold in my hands here is, far from the saving shore of fiction, a bloody thriller; too much possibility, too much option, too much truth, to call it pure fiction!
Like a dystopian premonition, Naraka rises as the origin…
Part 1 – Naraka:
an unmistakable inferno, far from any theatricality – a Death-Metal-hammer à la Deicide as a book.
Kalasutra, part two, doesn’t follow the path, but strides unstoppably – basically Naraka never follows, but treads its path.
Also stylistically you’ll see the progression – out of the origin, Naraka, grows the consequence; this distorted and repulsive result is literally pressed out of the dying body, who doesn’t seem to be allowed to finally leave that suffering behind.
In a Hard-Boiled-atmosphere Cyber- and Splatterpunk encounter, virtually wolf down each other and vomit their new existence as an all-devouring dystopia.
Part 2 – Kalasutra:
a sopping blackness out the hellfires – a Black-Metal massacre à la Marduk putted into words.
The concluding finale, Samghata, the third part, would now have to open the gates to hell – measured by what is about to happen, this would even be merciful…
The gates do open indeed, but not to hell, but heaven; this kingdom, which only reaches my mind as a pale illusion and impends to raven my sanity as an eternal cognition, not to look into hell, but to dream out of it…
Part 3 – Samghata:
a final confession of the eternal dying – a Sludge-demise à la The Midnight Ghost Train putted on paper.
This experience, this hell, this purgatory, this dystopia is difficult to put into words – it wants to be lived through too much, is too individual, to be explained simply; however, there are still the words of Riddick, from the game mentioned at the beginning:
»It ain’t the fall that gets ‘ya. It’s the sudden stop at the bottom.«
Naraka is this fall – including the awareness of the unavoidable smashing.
Origin – Consequence – Persistence… Origin.
Origin, Naraka, the beginning…
…the draconian beginning, which is less than what remains…
Consequence, Kalasutra, the implication…
…the inferior result that seems to devour itself…
Persistence, Samghata, the continuation…
…the infinite return that holds all origins captive in itself…
Origin – Naraka, the beginning…
…welcome to hell.
Actually I’m not a friend of saying anything about the author’s language and/or style, when it’s a translation – here I have to rave a little about that…
Manzettis power of speech is unparalleled in this genre; I almost dare to speak of a Kafkaesque atmosphere.
With Naraka Manzetti rings in a new era of Splatterpunk: literary, merciless, transcendent.