While much of pop culture fixates on those who commit murders, in recent years there’s been a similar fascination with those odd souls who make it their business to clean up after the fact. From Pulp Fiction‘s The Wolf to the ladies of Sunshine Cleaning to the slacker screw-ups of Dirty Work, there’s something compelling about those who make it their life’s work to return the horrific back to the status quo. Now it’s time for celebrated author and former Nerdist podcast guest Warren Ellis to put his indelible stamp on the gruesome gig in his brand new e-book Dead Pig Collector, available now through FSG Originals.
Many may be surprised to learn that Dead Pig Collector isn’t a graphic novel; reading it, at times I found myself thinking it’d make an excellent self-contained trade paperback. But, like his recent work Gun Machine, another novel, any Ellis release is cause for celebration, and Dead Pig Collector does not disappoint. Although the title sounds like a forgotten GWAR B-side, the e-novella is a gripping, surprisingly sweet story, despite its bleak subject matter.
The story follows Mr. Sun, a man whose business is the clean, efficient, discreet disposal of corpses. He lives his life in a very precise, orderly manner, which Ellis hammers home using a sort of macabre inversion of Rent‘s “Seasons of Love.” Mr. Sun cares not for how many minutes are in a year; rather, he focuses on how many seconds it takes from the time he leaves his home in London until his job is complete in Los Angeles. It’s an obsessive, intensely specific way of living one’s life that immediately informs the reader about Mr. Sun and how he conducts himself. After all, it’s only natural that a man whose livelihood is determined by not leaving any traces of the act behind would be as precise in other areas of his life. And it is exactly this fact, this way of life that makes what follows so thrilling.
How can love bloom at a crime scene? Well, considering it’s only 34 pages, I’d rather let you discover it for yourself. What sets Ellis’ take on the business of corpse cleaning apart from the pack is its stark juxtaposition of heartfelt emotion with the brutality associated with breaking down and disposing of a corpse. Despite the grim nature of the story, it’s actually a love story at its core. Ellis takes the readers on an intense emotional arc in just 34 pages that left me breathless, satisfied and also yearning for more.
Humor and heart abound in the long short story, which makes the moments of violence all the more impactful, like, to stay on theme, how they say time slows down in the moments between a long fall and becoming an asphalt Jackson Pollock. Ellis’ prose is stark without being minimal, bursting with detail and insight without being overwrought. In short, Dead Pig Collector is like an Olympic-sized kiddie pool. It’s a story into which you’ll want to dive headlong, holding your breath until you come up gasping for air, simultaneously relieved and disappointed that the ride has come to an end, but grateful to have taken the plunge to begin with.
Warren Ellis’ latest work, Dead Pig Collector, is available now as an e-book from FSG Originals. You can keep up with Ellis’ many ongoing projects on his website and relive his greatest podcast moments. Have you read Dead Pig Collector? Let us know what you think in the comments below!