How valuable is your right foot? Does your left arm have a price tag? If someone offered you a ridiculous sum of money, would you consider selling off a bit of you? This is the question that Michael Fox, a homeless drunkard, is faced with in the beginning of Gord Rollo’s novel “The Jigsaw Man”. And that’s just the start.
The story wastes no time digging into unsettling territory. A super-rich doctor, condemned by the medical field, is looking to continue his research privately. Our protagonist is approached, seduced, and before you know it, on a nightmare ride unlike anything you’ve ever seen. The pacing starts fast, maintains fast, and ends fast. Rollo never gives you time to get used to things, moving along like a ride you can’t control.
One of the things we look for here at Killer-works is material that is not only well crafted and horrific, but different. This novel is wonderfully different. I once participated in a writers challenge with a simple concept; abuse your main character mercilessly and put them through the worst hell you can imagine. The products turned out to be generic torture tales, a litany of grotesquery’s so thin on story as to be ridiculous. Terrible (and not in a good way). It’s incredibly difficult to maintain a reader’s attention, let alone sympathy, with a battered punching bag as a protagonist.
Newcomer Gord Rollo pulls this trick off with ease. Never before have I seen a main character run a gauntlet of horrors like poor Michael Fox does in this book. There are things done to this man that make your skin crawl and actually make you thankful you still have skin to crawl! Half-way through the novel, I kept checking the page number and wondering… “How the hell is he going to fill another 150 pages? His protagonist is fucked beyond use!”
The book is a candy-land of imagery designed to haunt and bother, but it’s also conceptually creepy. Even without the gratuitous gore and blood (healthy doses!), it would be disturbing on account of what’s happening. It’s been called a modern Frankenstein story, but I’m not sure I agree with that. Sure, there are elements of science gone “bad”, and Dr. Marshall is definitely remorseless in his twisted pursuit, but the story is more about Michael Fox, the victim. Frankenstein was more about science stepping on religion’s turf. This is a man fighting for his life against a sick bastard who spends far too much time chopping people up in the name of ego.
“The Jigsaw Man” is an excellent foray into the dark side of medicine, and the darkest side of humanity.