Sparky The Spunky Robot – Dani Brown
Reviewed by Ben Walker
Dani Brown’s Sparky the Spunky Robot suffers from two things. First, awesome cover art that draws you in like a bizarro Venus fly trap, and a blurb that revels in the frankly bonkers concept of a robot given magical sentience by its owner’s joy juice. Second, it feels like it wants to be a messed-up modern fairy tale, a Pinocchio dripping with cum (R.I.P. tumblr), but it lacks the magic that fables need.
The Gepetto figure here is Matthew, a failed musician who drowns his sorrows by having a crafty wank in his garden shed every so often. When he isn’t shooting baby batter all over his prized keytar, he pops his wad into a purpose-built robot named Sparky. One night, powered by his owner’s stored-up baby batter, Sparky springs to life and goes looking for a voice box. His quest, to make his father love him more than his abandoned musical instrument. On his way he encounters a lot of lawn ornaments and another jizz-filled robot who tried to lead him astray.
Unfortunately, this journey feels more like a struggle than a feel-good tale of self discovery in the bizarro style. The book has some satirical points to make, like many good bizarro titles, but the amount of repetition along the way slows down the pace significantly. Sparky’s introductory section has so many reminders of his pecker snot-powered gimmick that any humour or revulsion you might feel is, well, sucked away.
That repetition spills over into the main narrative as well, and was so distracting at times that I had to skip back and forth, either for clarity or just to get to something fresh. Character’s attributes and needs are drilled into you, sometimes in the same paragraph. Going back to that Pinocchio comparison for a moment, imagine if Jiminy Cricket stopped every two minutes to show you his hat and describe it, or if the titular puppet kept saying “my nose grows when I lie!” to everyone he meets, even when they already know it does. The same thing happens here, becoming way too draining. And not in a good way.
As monotonous as Sparky’s quest is, when you realise the point of it all, that drudgery feels like it has a purpose. His quest through the sheds, exposing the hidden dreams or perversions of people in suburbia, carries with it a noble message which the last few lines deliver perfectly. Only getting there is no fun. None of the characters are compelling, the first half is so light on dialogue and heavy on description & inner thoughts that it can feel like an essay rather than a story. Not even Sparky’s evil or is he? counterpart robot, Sandy, offers enough entertainment to make you curious about the fate of these cream-filled bots.
If all the ideas found in Sparky the Spunky Robot had been condensed into a short story, I think I would have loved it, but the ideas here don’t hold up when stretched out over the course of a novella, so I can’t recommend this title. Do check out Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Vol 3. though, for a far more compelling and downright disturbing short story from Dani Brown, and you’ll see why they call her the Queen of Filth.
Dreams die in sheds in Suburban Hell, traded for garden decorations so the neighbours can see how well everyone conforms. Matthew was a popstar, once. His band went on and made it without him, so now every night he goes to the shed to jerk off over his keytar, the one Karen wants him to give up so that she can get higher-tier garden decorations. But too much semen could break his beloved instrument, so Matthew builds Sparky, a robot that takes his cum.
One night, Sparky comes to life, but soon discovers he has no voice. And why would he? Matthew built him to swallow spunk, not to speak. Left in the shed after he serves his purpose, Sparky sets out on a journey to find a voice. Along the way he meets Sandy, a robot like him, only Sandy is powered by a different man, an evil man. Together, Sparky and Sandy scour every inch of their neighbourhood, breaking into nearby garden sheds, exposing the neighbours, all in search of a voice for Sparky the Spunky Robot.
Ben Walker is a British reviewer/writer who had his tiny mind ruined by an illicit viewing of John Carpenter’s The Thing when he was a young lad, and his mind is still pretty tiny and ruined now. His past review credits include reviews & interviews on the sadly defunct UK Horror Scene website. Nowadays you can find him on YouTube talking about the weird books & movies that tickle his fancy.
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