puzzleman reviewThe PUZZLEMAN of Christopher Alan Broadstone’s debut novel is a hideously disfigured stranger, so named because his body parts don’t quite match up to one another. For instance, his eyes are different colors, one of his hands is a woman’s and his head is described as having the shape of a half-deflated basketball with one side kicked in. In short, Puzzleman – also going by the less snappy name of Conundrum – is not the sort of chap you want invading your dreams and scooping out your uterus.

So pity poor Amanda, a divorced sculptor still reeling from the SIDS death of her only child. She initially encounters the Puzzleman after buying a lone earring from a street vendor because the piece of jewelry is so unique: a globe millions of intercrossed wires that never looks the same twice and sometimes sparks. It also makes her sick – establishing vomit as a recurring theme – and leads her to strange episodes of drunken delusions.

Meanwhile, her ex-husband Erik lives in squalor in an underground tunnel, his legs freshly cut off. His only salvation is the occasional injection of heroin supplied by his old college history professor, the nearly retired John Rainbow. Through a bizarre set of circumstances, Amanda and Erik reunite and get thrown into Condundrum’s “pipeworld,” into which one enters via a giant sphincter. And so do the professor and his long-lost German love, who made love in a vat of grapes the day they met decades ago.

The moral of the story? Avoid street vendors; shop at Amazon.

Despite the book going overboard in the abhorrent-odor description department (with “cum-fishy” and “vaginal caviar” being among the most, um, imaginative repeat offenders) and having an over-reliance on internal monologues, I was with PUZZLEMAN for most of its ooey-gooey ride to the depths of hell. Through a vivid imagination, Broadstone has the ability to elicit uncomfortable reactions, and I wanted to see how all the story’s pieces fit together (if you’ll forgive the most obvious pun).

Where it lost me was halfway through, when the entire mystery of Conundrum is explained in a 50-page stretch as the professor consults textbooks, unearthing secrets with roots in cryptology, mythology and Biblical times. And after that, with all the characters stuck in pipeworld, the narrative shifts gears into somewhat of a loop, as they all are menaced in a variety of manners as they seek escape. It’s not that this second half is bad – indeed, those who delight in viscera and gore will find plenty to wade in – but it does not live up to the ambition of all that comes before it.

That said, as a horrific whole, it satisfies. And with Broadstone being a filmmaker, I hope to see it someday as a movie. –Rod Lott

Buy it at Amazon, Shocklines or Black Cab Productions.
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Comment by George R Taylor
2006-07-26 07:52:17

Sounds like my kind of novel! :)

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Comment by Joe Horror
2006-07-31 16:52:44

Puzzleman is weird and wild ride through the fevered mind of visionary filmmaker, Christopher Alan Broadstone. Comparisons to Clive Barker are not unfounded and I’d recommend Puzzleman to anybody looking for something “new” and “different”.

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Comment by Natalie
2006-07-31 17:49:39

I have to say that I was scared to read Puzzleman. And I was scared all the way through. I’m still scared. That’s how good it is.

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Comment by Eve Blaack
2006-07-31 18:17:36

I could not put Puzzleman down once I started reading it. An intelligent book for the intelligent horror fan!

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Comment by Roderick Usher
2006-07-31 23:47:52

If you’re looking for a romance novel for reading at the beach, this ain’t it. Although, reading it in the daylight might help. Because reading Puzzleman at night may well cause nightmares if not fear-filled insomnia.
Broadstone creates a world no one would want to inhabit, but watching others thust into the “pipeworld” is very satisfying, indeed.
It’s disturbing, it’s disgusting, it’s delightful!
Broadstone forces some pretty bothersome stuff down the throats of his readers. And if you’ve got the apetite for it, Chow down, all you sickos. You better be hungry, though, because it just keeps coming without much of a break. And that one break is basically when he challenges your intellect.
If insanity is your cup of tea… Slurp, slurp.
Enjoy. You’ll be hard pressed to find better writing in this genre.

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Comment by Shinji
2006-08-01 08:15:37

Wow christopher has alot of friends!

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Comment by Eve Blaack
2006-08-01 18:25:55

If you read the book, you would see we are fans and appreciate talent when we see it.

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Comment by Denise
2006-08-04 19:18:53

I read Puzzleman and was so impressed with Christopher Broadstone’s imagery, you can’t help seeing and feeling what the characters are experiencing. It’s hard to express in words, so you’ll have to check it out yourself. If you love gore, it’s a must!

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