I have read two novels by Cameron Pierce before this short fiction collection titled Lost in Cat Brain Land. Cameron Pierce's talent as a writer was instantly noticeable yet his two novels, Ass Goblins of Auschwitz (2 stars) and Gargoyle Girls of Spider Island (4 stars) were so purposefully shocking that it tended to disguise the immense talent he has. That may have been an unfair assessment but it was the first feeling I had upon tackling these two Bizarro novels. Yet they left me wanting to read more by this author and that is always a good sign.
Lost in Cat Brain Land is still often over-the-top weird and it is certainly a solid contender in the strange world of Bizarro Lit as one of the most Bizarro-ness. Yet it is also one of the best short fiction collections I have ever read and solidifies Cameron Pierce reputation, in my mind at least, as one of the most innovative writers out there. Short fiction is the perfect media for Pierce. It allows him to let it surrealistically all hang out yet keeps the story focused enough to tell you there is something odd and beautiful going on here. Some of these works are flash fiction being only a page or two long. They are little snacks of words that leave you wanting more. My favorite is "Flowers". It is so short that I almost just added the entire story to this review, but I think there might be some legal issues in doing that. So you will just have to read it elsewhere than here. Others are longer but so strange you wonder "WTF!" even as you enjoy it like "The Dead Monkey Exhibit" and "I am Meat, I am in Day Care". Every tale here is strange but in the best, such as the title story and "Tea for a Mysterious Creature" seems to have an overlying theme that centers it and keeps it precariously "down to earth". I don't think it is a coincidence that both of the mentioned stories feature a person who is basically being dumped and that may be a connecting note for the reader; something we can all connect with at one time or another.
Yet the best story in the collection is also the longest. It is at once the most horrifying and the most darkly humorous. "Drain Angel" is the story of a "cherub faced earwig" that crawls out of a shower drain and begins growing rapidly. The childless and emotionally neglected Joy accepts as her child and become oblivious to its repulsiveness and violence. The tale takes the saying "a face only mother could love" to its most horrifying extreme.
The story also exhibits Cameron Pierce' biggest strength. He is not afraid of extremes. Extremes simply open up vaster possibilities for his talent to tell a story and to play with our emotions. This collection, and his novels for that matter, are certainly not for everyone. But they are excellent examples of how a fearless writer can open up new doors. And if we are not careful we may turn around, discover that the door is locked, and there is no going back. What a delicious feeling!