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Posted January 17, 2005
John Skipp¿s name should be familiar to well-read horror fans -- he was one-half of the famed writing duo 'Skipp and Spector' who wrote such genre classics as The Light at the End and The Bridge. Along with many of the younger breed of horror writers, Skipp and Spector were lumped (fairly or unfairly) into the horror sub-genre of 'splatterpunk,' which offered readers a much darker world-view along with graphic, no-holds barred descriptions that most authors would leave to the reader¿s imaginations. Skipp and Spector authored several novels and short stories together, garnering a strong critical and popular following. When the Skipp and Spector partnership fell apart in 1993, due to creative and personal reasons that have never fully been revealed or discussed by either party, many horror fans predicted great things from both writers, and waited with anticipation for them to release their own, single-author works. It took over ten years for Skipp to make good on these grand predictions, but there can be little doubt of his return to form. The novella 'Conscience,' which gives the book its title, is actually just one of the eight works found between the book¿s covers, which also include a full-length unproduced screenplay, 'Johnny Death,' and several short stories that predate or run parallel to the writing of 'Conscience.' Introductions to each piece help to place it within its historical context, and provide the reader with backstory and history for each piece. Skipp¿s shorter fiction packs a remarkable punch, and the stories are lessons in economy -- rarely revealing more than they need to, and not lasting a second longer than necessary to maximize their impact. But for all Skipp¿s success with short stories, the short novel 'Conscience' is really the centerpiece of the book, and in it he offers an unforgettable look at the city of Los Angeles as a micro-chasm of the overall human condition, offering the reader a mind-and-genre-bending excursion into the darker side of humanity, and one man¿s quest for personal redemption. Part noir nightmare and part personal quest, this is a story that pulls equally from both popular culture and personal demons, both real and imagined. It is neither truly a horror story or crime story, but an original combination of the two . . . something uniquely its own. Like the twisted love-child of Raymond Chandler, Stephen King, and Quentin Tarantino, Skipp holds the reader in sway for the length of the story, as foul-mouthed anti-heroes, philosophical doppelgangers, and fallen messiahs weave into a story that lingers in a reader¿s mind for long after it has finished. It may have taken ten years for Skipp to release a new book, but the wait was worthwhile. Rarely has a book crossed my desk that has so quickly demanded my attention or stuck with me so long afterwards. So, without further adieu, let me be among the first to tell you that Skipp has returned, and all the grand predictions made about his second-coming are true. Grab yourself a copy of Conscience, and prepare to experience something quite unlike anything else you¿ll read this year.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.