When I first learned that the new novella Kingdom of Teeth was a thing, I was hesitant at first. When it comes to bizarro fiction, I’m a little bit gun shy as I’ve read a few really great bizarro authors and a lot of really bad ones, so it generally takes some convincing to nudge me in that direction. If it’s a Danger Slater penned work, I’ll be all over it in an instant. Same goes for Chris Kelso. And when it comes to these two authors, Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason, they could write murder ballads on bathroom walls and I’d find a way to read them. Everything they’ve written to date has been nothing less than stellar and I never hesitate to seek them out. They’ve got that rare ability to write not just an entertaining story, but an original and unique one every time, with standouts like Mayan Blue and Those Who Follow coming immediately to mind. So, billed as bizarro or not, when I saw their monikers on the title, the decision became an immediate no-brainer. Where do I buy my tickets and when does this ride start?
In Kingdom of Teeth we meet hapless loser and dental school failure Randy, a man who lives in the shadow of his asshole of a brother and spends his free time drinking in an attempt to dull his shame and sorrows. But when he’s abducted and taken to the strange, truly bizarre, and oddly magical realm of Molarous where he encounters the Hyperdontians and their queen Bicuspa, known to us as the tooth fairy, everything changes for him. Because what they need more than anything right now is a fucking dentist and our unlikely protagonist may just be the hero they are so desperate for. The kingdom has been beset by an insidious plague that is devouring its citizens and that, if the demon who’s causing it can’t be stopped, threatens to claim the souls of every human child who has ever left a tooth for Bicuspa to gather.
If you wonder what you’re getting into going with this strange little novella, I can tell you that’s not as easy a question to answer as it seems like it would be on the surface. It’s billed as a “bizarro fairytale for adults,” which is accurate but really only scratches the surface of this wonderfully multi-layered read. What you get with Kingdom of Teeth is a wonderfully dark surreal fantasy that would make Tim Burton proud of both it’s scope of setting and execution of storytelling. Mixed in with that, you have a heartwarming love story, a sometimes raucously hilarious pun exercise, and a tale of redemption and ultimately comeuppance in a realm on the verge of ruin whose very existence lies firmly on the shoulders of the unlikeliest of heroes. Randy is a perfectly developed character with just the right amount of backstory to make him relatable without slowing or stalling the breakneck pace of the story, and he evolves perfectly as the story moves along, slowly and logically becoming exactly that which he needs to be to accomplish his goals. The twins are intimately familiar with the mechanics of story and with the art that lies behind it, applying their characters and settings with the deft strokes of master composers. Their tale flows onto the page and into your brain almost naturally, becoming, yes, a bizarro fairytale for adults but, more than that, “The Little Prince” as imagined by the lovechild of Tim Burton and Rob Zombie.
There is a lot I could say about the world contained within this little book, about its grotesquely toothsome denizens, oddly beautiful in their other-worldly deformities, or the hideously deformed and deadly creatures that Randy and the soldiers of the realm must fight to get to the real enemy, steadfastly determined to spread the plague of infection to everyone in the realm. I could describe the wonders, terrors, and magical settings that you’ll encounter on the journey through this strange little tale. But I could never come close to doing so with the alacrity and stunning, vivid imagery that the Sisters of Slaughter make such adept use of. So, I’ll just let them tell you about those things and more in this outstanding new book from Eraserhead Press. If you’re looking for a gateway drug to bizarro fiction or the masterful works of the brilliant twin writing team of Garza and Lason, you couldn’t do better than to start right here with Kingdom of Teeth.