Written by: Matthew J. Barbour
Classifying Robert Devereaux as a horror author is probably a bit of misnomer. Dark fantasy or bizarro fiction better describes much of the author’s writing. Devereaux is most famous for the Santa Claus Chronicles in which Santa carries on an affair with the tooth fairy and fights the homophobes. If anything, his work is more about social commentary and satire than traditional horror.
Caliban and Other Tales is not as ridiculous as the Santa Claus Chronicles. Yet, it still relies heavily on mockery and allegory to comment on the hypocrisies of our modern world. The book consists of five short stories and the novella entitled “Caliban.” “Bucky Goes to Church,” “Ridi Bobo,” “Clap if you Believe,” and “The Slobbering Tongue that ate the Frightfully Huge Woman” also appear in the collection of Baby’s First Book of Seriously Fucked-up Shit. “A Slow Red Whisper of Sand” was first published in Love in Vein, a vampire collection edited by Poppy Z. Brite.
All of these short tales serve to demonstrate the depth and range of Devereaux’s writing prowess. “Bucky Goes to Church” is a disturbing view of a mass murderer who goes to heaven where he is given the ultimate punishment. He is chosen to serve as God. In “Clap if you Believe,” a young man is brought home to meet the parents. This is always a difficult time, made more so by the fact that his girlfriend is the fairy, Tinkerbell. Dad has only three questions for his daughter’s suitor. Can he answer correctly?
The novella, “Caliban,” is a reimagining of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Like many other modern retellings, this story follows the narrative from the monster’s perspective. Devereaux takes many liberties with the Shakespearean tale. However, Caliban is still the inhuman (or subhuman) spawn of the witch, Sycorax. Enslaved by the wizard Prospero, he vows his revenge against the Italian and his spawn Miranda.
For those enamored with Shakespeare, “Caliban” is a breath of new life into a much beloved classic told through the unapologetic and disturbing mind of Devereaux. However, most horror readers may not be familiar with the tale or may not have read The Tempest since high school. The writing style and storyline of “Caliban” are both extremely convoluted making comprehension difficult. This is a result of both the story on which it is based and Devereaux’s own unique presentation.
Recommending Caliban and Other Tales is problematic. Most of the stories in the book appear elsewhere in better collections. “Caliban” the namesake of the book, and the only piece exclusive to the collection, is arguable the weakest link. Still, writing off the collection would be a mistake. Devereaux is an amazing author that challenges our preconceived notions of the world around us. He tackles Shakespeare, as he would any subject matter, with an essence and gusto all his own.
Pick it up right here.