The Orphan Palace (2011, novel)

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ISBN-10: 1907681116
ISBN-13: 978-1907681110

Publisher: Chomu Press

Cardigan is heading east through the night-bleak cities of America and back to confront the past he has never escaped, as a resident of Zimms, an orphanage-cum-asylum and a true palace of dementia, presided over by the ‘Chaos Lord’, Dr. Archer. His odyssey is one of haunting flashbacks and disorientating encounters on the road as he leaves a trail of fire and destruction behind him. In the circles and dead-ends that make the maze of his madness, Cardigan meets bounty hunters, ghosts, ghouls, a talking rat, even a merman, and struggles to decide which will lead him to damnation and which to salvation.

With The Orphan Palace, Joseph S. Pulver takes the ‘weird fiction’ mythologies of Robert Chambers, Frank Belknap Long and H.P. Lovecraft, melts them in the crucible of his own unique noir poetry and cooks up a hallucinatory road-trip that is utterly unexpected.

* * * * *

Praise for The Orphan Palace

“There are occasional books, movies, cds, etc. that are of such a special quality — that resonate with people in such a perfect way — that they seem immune to any strong negative criticism. Movies like FIGHT CLUB, TAXI DRIVER and DRIVE (I’m sure they have the rare haters), books like…oh…THE ORPHAN PALACE…”
– Jeffrey Thomas, author of Punktown

“Joe Pulver is like the answer to some arcane riddle: What do you get when you cross one of Plato’s Muse-maddened poets with a Lovecraftian lunatic, and then give their offspring to be raised by Raymond Chandler and a band of Beats? His work caters to a literary hunger you didn’t even know you had, and does it darkly and deliciously.”
– Matt Cardin, author of Dark Awakenings

“The Orphan Palace is not a story. With this novel, Joe Pulver wants to press your face right up against the horror, the crime, the sheer madness and absurdity of the cosmos, and rub your nose in it. He wants you to eat it like a dog eats its own vomit; he wants your face to be covered in black-shining stars and rainbow-filth when you’re done; he demands that you be changed by what you have consumed. This is not a novel. It is a unique literary experience.”
– Gary McMahon, author of Pretty Little Dead Things and Pieces of Midnight

“The Orphan Palace kicks you in the face and doesn’t stop. Pulver’s prose sees the world through a cracked lense of 60’s hedonism and 70’s grit, with a side order of unshakable terror. A serial killer novel that explores the dark side of America via Kerouac in a shell of cosmic horror. What he does is electrifying. I’ve never seen anything like it. My hair is still standing on end.”
– Simon Strantzas, author of Nightingale Songs

“Joe Pulver’s poetic prose is hypnotic and intoxicating, so beautiful and strange that it transports the reader. Yet it does the work of creating fascinating characters and telling story. Story-telling is an art, and none are more accomplished than Pulver. Weird fiction’s primal duty is to fuck [alternative word: debauch] your brain and kiss your sense of wonder. This book has done that for me, as few horror novels have. Absolutely brilliant.”
– Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire, author of The Tangled Muse

“Mad, malevolent, and incantatory, The Orphan Palace reads like the hagridden fever dream of one who has not only stared the Abyss in Its black and fathomless face, but welcomed Its gaze in return . . . and become Its living embodiment. It is a journey to be taken by none but the bravest of readers, and by souls with an ardent desire to savor their own damnation.”
– Robin Spriggs, author of Diary of a Gentleman Diabolist

“The prose of Joe Pulver can take its place with that of the masters of our genre – E.A. Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Ramsey Campbell, Thomas Ligotti – while his imaginative reach is something uniquely his own.”
– S.T. Joshi

“While everybody else in horror is still aping the shallow visual palette of cinema, Joe Pulver calls down a storm of psychotronic nightmares charged with the evocative depth and relentless pulse of the Devil’s music.”
– Cody Goodfellow

* * * * *

Reviews

“The Orphan Palace smacks the reader in the face from the first page just to resolve any question about who’s in charge. Pulver’s approach here is to make the story not just something the main character experiences, but a series of thoughts and perceptions. It takes place “in here” rather than “out there.” The stream-of-consciousness style took me a while to settle into due to the hyper-saturated poetic style. This may be the most uncompromising narrative I’ve read in years, but it’s worth settling into the groove of this energetic and strongly poetic tale.”
– Mike Griffin, founder of Hypnos Recordings (full review)

“Although this is a full-length novel, there are subplots and side-journeys from the main story that are like little individual pictures in a larger tapestry, all woven together by the strand of Cardigan’s journey. These little vignettes read like they could be stand-alone poems or short stories in their own right but for the fact that Cardigan is injected into them. I wondered a few times, as I was reading of Cardigan’s side escapades, if Pulver might have taken unrelated short works and re-written them to include Cardigan. Either way, the book doesn’t suffer from their inclusion. As with any great travel story, most of the fun is in the journey itself.
To think of The Orphan Palace simply as a horror novel would be a huge mistake. This book is an absurdist masterwork that fuses elements of horror together with bits of philosophy, metaphysics, poetry, music, noir, and even nods – like little inside jokes – to some of the people or stories that influenced it. Pulver is such a damned clever writer that I want to re-read this book just to see if I can pick out all the subtle references and little Easter Eggs he has hidden in it.”

Excerpts of the review from http://www.sheneverslept.com (full review)

One often hears the fiction of certain writers praised as poetic, but the effects those writers produce actually have little to do with poetry. What makes their work so striking is a mastery of the rhythms of prose, so that their sentences fall with an elegance that may be simple or extravagant but is always orderly. Truly poetic language is another matter; largely the preserve of experimental writers, it awkwardly yet beautifully occupies the space between prose and poetry, can often be read either way depending on the moment and one’s mood. Chomu Press has published a number of writers who explore this territory– Brendan Connell and Michael Cisco come to mind– but their latest release, Joseph S. Pulver Sr.’s The Orphan Palace, is the most mind-bending hybrid yet. The blurring of the line between prose and poetry is only the beginning; Pulver’s sharp, dark narrative mixes Lovecraftian cosmicism, noir fiction, psychological horror, and urban squalor so seamlessly that it’s hard to remember they ever worked separately. To say a book like this is “not for everyone” is a massive case of stating the obvious, but for the right reader, it’s an awe-inspiring, mind-bending experience.
– Excerpts of the review from The Stars at Noonday (full review)

“However, Michael Cisco raises an interesting point in the introduction to this novel, when he talks of Cardigan as the paranoid man who ‘knows’ and ‘understands’ everything, and I think this is key to appreciating how The Orphan Palace works. Everything in this novel is very real to Cardigan; the novel may be a road trip across the United States, but we can also read it as a painstaking mapping of Cardigan’s own mental territory. To read the novel is then to in part decode Cardigan’s thought processes and to reach some understanding of what prompts him to commit murder and arson as he goes, and also to understand the influences of others on him. The most notable is Huey, another orphan at the Home, convinced that he is the quarry of the Hounds of Tindalos, and Tibet, who offers Cardigan a gentler framework of Eastern philosophy around which to build his life. The novel in part lays bare Cardigan’s struggle to find a belief system which can sustain him, so we might also read this novel as Cardigan’s attempt to construct a narrative in which he explains himself to himself.”
– Maureen Kincaid Speller for Weird Fiction Review (full review)

“Joe Pulver is a unique voice in horror. I first encountered his work in a number of anthologies, and they always left a lasting impression. At novel length, he becomes the Tom Waits of the macabre – laconic, poetic, surreal, with an uncanny ability to paint a landscape or a feeling with a few, deft words.
As to The Orphan Palace, I won’t taint it with my impressions, other than to say it is a dark jewel of the English language. Beat poetry for the night.”

– Hrothgir Ó Dómhnaill via http://www.amazon.co.uk

“One often hears the fiction of certain writers praised as poetic, but the effects those writers produce actually have little to do with poetry. What makes their work so striking is a mastery of the rhythms of prose, so that their sentences fall with an elegance that may be simple or extravagant but is always orderly. Truly poetic language is another matter; largely the preserve of experimental writers, it awkwardly yet beautifully occupies the space between prose and poetry, can often be read either way depending on the moment and one’s mood. Chomu Press has published a number of writers who explore this territory– Brendan Connell and Michael Cisco come to mind– but their latest release, Joseph S. Pulver Sr.’s The Orphan Palace, is the most mind-bending hybrid yet. The blurring of the line between prose and poetry is only the beginning; Pulver’s sharp, dark narrative mixes Lovecraftian cosmicism, noir fiction, psychological horror, and urban squalor so seamlessly that it’s hard to remember they ever worked separately. To say a book like this is “not for everyone” is a massive case of stating the obvious, but for the right reader, it’s an awe-inspiring, mind-bending experience.”
Brendan Moody via http://www.amazon.co.uk

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