by Alison Rumfitt
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Pub Date 10 Oct 2023 | Archive Date 10 Oct 2023
Tor Publishing Group, Tor Nightfire
“Smart, seething social horror…Rumfitt gives her worms the grotesque and triumphant glory they demand.” —The New York Times Book Review
From Alison Rumfitt, the author of Tell Me I’m Worthless — “a triumph of transgressive queer horror” (Publishers Weekly) — comes Brainwyrms, a searing body horror novel of obsession, violence, and pleasure.
“Alison is like the twisted daughter of Clive Barker and Shirley Jackson.” —Joe Hill, New York Times bestselling author on Tell Me I'm Worthless
When a transphobic woman bombs Frankie’s workplace, she blows up Frankie’s life with it. As the media descends like vultures, Frankie tries to cope with the carnage: binge-drinking, sleeping with strangers, pushing away her friends. Then, she meets Vanya. Mysterious, beautiful, terrifying Vanya.
The two hit it off immediately, but as their relationship intensifies, so too does Frankie’s feeling that Vanya is hiding something from her. When Vanya’s secrets threaten to tear them apart, Frankie starts digging, and unearths a sinister, depraved conspiracy, the roots of which go deeper than she ever imagined.
Shocking, grotesque, and downright filthy, Brainwyrms confronts the creeping reality of political terrorism while exploring the depths of love, pain, and identity.
“[An] intimate, vulnerable triumph.” —Library Journal, STARRED review
“Rumfitt’s talent for portraying the deplorable, disgusting, and grotesque shines throughout her masterful sophomore horror outing.” —Publishers Weekly, STARRED review
Also by Alison Rumfitt:
Tell Me I'm Worthless
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 84 members
I think this is my first time diving into extreme horror. Not sure how I feel about it but the commentary throughout was thought-provoking.
WE LOVE QUEER HORROR, but holy fuggin shiz, Alison Rumfitt has completely outdone herself after the body-horror possession that Tell Me I'm Worthless was. Brainwyrms is profoundly sad and dystopically terrifying especially as the government and certain political parties continue to rip bodily autonomy from us. I SCREAMED when Macmillan Audio gave me audiobook access to this highly anticipated horror, and I'm additionally thankful to Tor Nightfire, Netgalley, and Alison Rumfitt for granting me advanced digital access as well.
There's a parasite plaguing the sex-curious LGBTQ+ community and people are both equally terrified and turned on. Because the media and politicians are always eager to input their opinions where they aren't needed, they flock to this night scene, transforming mothers and other family members into murderous conspiracy theorists looking to eradicate the anomalies.
Rumfitt's symbolism runs deep, for I'm sure all of the bigoted people view the LGBTQ+ community as a parasite and stop at nothing to point, mock, and discriminate those individuals. What may have read as gross horror is unfortunately distantly close to normal for so many trans-persons facing hate and danger from those who have no place distributing such actions.
Brainwyrms is set to hit shelves on October 10, 2023, and I cannot wait.
I’m calling it now, but Brainwyrms is gonna be one of those “either you love it or you hate it” kind of book except it’ll be more like ‘if you’ve never read extreme horror, let alone trans horror, you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into’ and it’ll probably leave a few people NOT liking it because it’s brand new territory for them.
To me, Brainwyrms isn’t just extreme horror with a bit of grossness and kink, it’s also at its core queer horror — trans horror, specifically — and I think if that’s the genre of horror you like, you’ll absolutely love this. I love it. I thought it was disgusting and gross so many times, but I also couldn’t put it down. Alison Rumfitt literally does NOT hold back when it comes to the extremes nor does she hold back when it comes to being political (and I could probably go on a tangent here, but to be short, how can you not be political when you are living as a trans person in the UK). There’s so many layers of horror in this but to me the horror that stood out the most was the horrible truth of living as a trans or queer person in the UK and the fear you face daily and Rumfitt really managed to write it so well, that even I, a cis person, could feel the fear and anger deep within. I can’t pretend to know what trans people go through, especially not the extent of what body dysmorphia can be like, but I do think Brainwyrms managed to make that feeling a bit more tangible to me. It might not have been the intention, but I do think it says a lot about Rumfitt’s writing that you can resonate with her characters and their fears, wants, and needs.
I’m rambling, but I absolutely loved every part of this (in a I want to vomit/I want to look away/I need to continue reading kind of way) and I’m looking forward to buying a physical copy I can place next to my copy of Tell Me I’m Worthless.
Alison Rumfitt is the moment y’all and Brainwyrms is for anyone who loves messed up kinks, broken characters, interconnected stories that fuck with you, and not so subtle nods to certain kinds of TERFs in british society (no spoilers, but again, Rumfitt does NOT hold back). If you’re unsure that Brainwyrms is for you, go to a bookstore and read Rumfitt’s introduction when it’s out, it’s magic, and ask yourself if you’re the kind of person that already prefers trans/queer (and/or extreme) horror.
I suppose this would be perfect for you if you liked Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca and Maggot Girl: Episode 1: A Maggoty Metamorphosis by Otis Bateman, but always wanted to know what would happen if both books fucked and had a a very messed up, but well written, child.
// Thank you to Tor Nightfire and NetGalley for the ARC.
I mean this in the most positive way possible - what a disgusting, horrifying book. I absolutely loved Tell Me I'm Worthless and was SO excited when I was accepted to received this from Tor.
Frankie meets Vanya, who is gorgeous and mysterious, and the two develop an intense relationship. As it develops, though, Frankie becomes suspicious of Vanya, and uncovers something absolutely horrifying.
This is absolutely not for the feint of heart. I love horror and gore and I had to put this down a few times just to shudder at the things I was reading. I loved it. Rumfitt has such a unique way of writing about the current "political" environment threatening the trans community.
4.5. I start a lot of reviews with just "wow," but this book is particularly deserving of it. I don't read a whole lot of extreme horror, but when I do I like it to be queer and purposeful. What is happening? What is the reason a story needs to be so intense? Brainwyrms is a perfect example of extreme horror with a purpose. The graphic, disgusting trauma happening on-page is impactful and serves a greater cause. In this case, we get to be up close and personal with the current-day tragedies and oppression of trans people in the UK. Sometimes you need to be forced into staring gruesome facts in the face, and Rumfitt is more than up to the challenge. I loved the feelings of horror and rage I felt while reading this book. Following Frankie and Vanya was painful but remarkably captivating, and I was totally blown away by the climax. Also, really clever use of cosmic horror elements mixed with taboo sex stuff. Thank you to NetGalley and Tor Nightfire for the opportunity to read this as an ARC!
This was such a great concept in the body horror novel, it had everything that I was looking for from the description. The characters were written well and I was engaged with the world that was created. It does the body horror elements well and I was glad I was able to read this. It left me wanting to read more from Alison Rumfitt as I enjoyed this.
People who like to describe things as "elevated horror" talk a lot about the difference between horror and terror. "The difference between Terror and Horror is the difference between awful apprehension and sickening realization: between the smell of death and stumbling against a corpse," as they say (or, ok, as Devendra Varma said, according to the "Horror and Terror" Wikipedia page...). What people often fail to mention is that a lot of so-called horror media is not really about horror, or about terror, but about disgust. More <i> ick </i> than <i>eek<i/>. No more frightening than spoiled milk, no less upsetting.
Folks, this is prime example of what I'm talking about. Brainwyrms is gross. Brainwyrms is disgusting. Brainwyrms should not be read in times and places where it would be inappropriate to become violently ill. Very icky. Whatever the opposite of elevated is. Neither the smell of death nor the stumbled upon corpse but the maggots and piles of vomit left behind for the crime scene clean-up crew. I often asked myself, <i> why am I reading this? why am I doing this to myself?<i/> It is the stinkingest turd of a novel I have ever read.
Not that there's anything wrong with that, as they say! And as turds go, this one was pretty polished. Rumfitt does a really fine job here of crafting a compelling narrative that neither under nor overplays its (unwashed) hand. The characters are well-formed, distinct, plausibly motivated to behave as they do. And the more straight-forward horror elements lurk persistently in the background, waiting patiently to be born. It has none of the flaws of Rumfitt's first novel, Tell Me I'm Worthless (which I found to be poorly structured, derivative, philosophically confused, etc.), or of Eric LaRocca's similarly premised Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke (which was rushed, pointless, unbelievable, etc.). I doubt I will recommend it to anyone -- I try to avoid rendering my friends and loved ones nauseous -- nor can I say honestly that I enjoyed it. But if you're looking to have a bad time reading a good book: this is for you.
P.S. Thanks NetGalley! This book should come with an anti-emetic!
Alison Rumfitt's books are some of the very few that I can read in a sitting or two. I'm a very VERY slow reader, but Rumfitt's work engages and horrifies me in equal measure. Brainwyrms is a book that's going to stick with me for a very long time. I apologize for a shorter review, but I recently broke my elbow and typing with one hand isn't my strong suit. I think I prefer her first book, but I adored this nasty little book. TERFS really do have brainworms.