Nathan Singer’s latest novel, Blackchurch Furnace, is a psychedelic-bluesy trip. From the opening pages comes grit and grime, clinging to each word. As a satirical approach about faith and family, Singer immerses readers into an unsettling world, ready for the apocalypse. With each turn of the page, Blackchurch Furnace builds upon its graphic settings, using visceral language, and a cast of misfits.
Blackchurch Furnace features a slew of characters that range from writers, musicians, to your run-of-the- mill weirdos. There’s the children’s writer D’antre, the androgynous metal vocalist Pearl, to the boiler-obsessed Will Fanon and more. Point-of-view jumps around between characters, their journey being told to the reader from their perspective. These stories act as vignettes of the character’s lives, sharing the experiences and goals that lead them to one another. Point-of-view becomes third-person by the halfway point, giving readers an overview of the events to come with everyone. Storywise there’s a lot happening, which can be difficult to follow at times. The plot keeps an underlining vibe of tension, tossing in plenty of weird moments to catch folks off guard.
There’s plenty of black humor to go around throughout the cast. Some of these people are on the brink of insanity, fighting off conspiracies, as well as the voices inside their heads. Ideas of the apocalypse and fate, as well as one character creating their own bible, cater to the satirical component about faith. People will burst into hysterical rants and religious ideals, making for dark, nonsensical humor. But there’s also the theme of family taking place throughout the story. This is shown through the sense of closeness (or lack of) that certain characters feel in regards to their loved one.
Characters offer casual descriptions of their settings and actions. Said descriptions feel like dialogue between the character and the reader, making one feel like they are participating in a conversation. This element is so potent, you feel like you are right there with the characters. You can see them play instruments. You can hear the crowd. You can smell the alcohol. The reader never has to guess what’s happening, for they will always feel like they are in the moment.
The author takes this further by playing with dialect of certain characters. As a story set primarily within the south and midwest, one can hear the words off the page. This is thanks to just how strong Singer translates dialect, weaving certains sounds into the reader’s mind. The southern drawl that occurs in dialogue is rich with flavor. One small example is when a character’s use of “hello” is pronounced and said as “Hay-luh”. Spelling like this occurs consistently throughout the novel, to the point of having the dialect roll off the reader’s own tongue. Furthermore, this aspect weaves its way so deeply into the language of the story, that some passages take on a rhythm, playing into a musical element of the story.
There’s a lot going on throughout Blackchurch Furnace. Singer displays his superb skills of language and description throughout the novel, connecting us with the sights and actions of his characters. This is a story that takes readers to weird, gritty, and unsettling places. Whether readers are prepared or not, Blackchurch Furnace is sure to surprise the hell out of anyone.
Grab a copy of Nathan Singer's 'Blackchurch Furnace' on Amazon.
Michael Pementel is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago's Creative Writing Program. When he isn't writing for Film Daddy, he writes full time for Metal Injection and New Noise Magazine. He has also written for Alternative Press, Film Inquiry, and The Curator. He's the Social Media Manager for death metal record label Ultimate Massacre Productions. When not writing, he enjoys a hot cup of black coffee, a good book/video game/film, and to cuddle with his fiancée and cat.
Follow Michael on Twitter @pementelm.