Who doesn’t love an evil clown? Whether it’s the Joker (who provides this book’s opening quote, taken from 1989’s Batman) terrorising Gotham City, Pennywise preying on children, or Ronald McDonald fostering a childhood obesity epidemic, there’s something about that brightly made up façade that hints at an underlying darkness. Author PD Alleva is a master at exploring the underlying darkness, evidenced in The Rose: Volume 1 and Volume 2, as well as Golem. But as much as those books explore underlying darkness, nothing could have prepared me for Jigglyspot and the Zero Intellect, a transgressive literary horror with a stunningly high concept that dives into the depths of depravity.
If the blurb doesn’t make it clear—or if you skipped past it to get to this review—let me make it abundantly clear that Jigglyspot and the Zero Intellect is not for the light-hearted. This is a story full of murder, violence, sexual assault, cannibalism, body horror and suicide, and it makes no apologies for this subject matter. It is a disturbing story—on both visceral and psychological levels—that is entirely unflinching in its approach. If you’re inclined to be triggered by any of that material, then this is not the book for you. If, however, you like your horror to be truly horrific and don’t mind a dash of black humour added for good measure, Jigglyspot and the Zero Intellect is a marvellous read that will claw its way inside your brain.
Told in seven parts across 570 pages (both in its physical and electronic forms), Jigglyspot and the Zero Intellect is not just a horror story, but a literary epic that infuses horror, science fiction and fantasy, with a transgressive bent designed to unsettle the reader. It encompasses humans, aliens, and wielders of dark magic in a story that spans the continental USA, before moving into other realms of reality. It’s a story about life, death, morality, sexuality, power, inhibitions and even hope. Alleva tells this story not only from the perspective of the titular Jigglyspot (or Jiggly, as others call him), but also a number of “zero intellects,” as Jiggly likes to call humans. These zero intellects are Tyler, a teenage murderer; Sharon, a struggling actor with dreams of stardom; Cassandra, Sharon’s best friend who works for a Hollywood agent; John Mills, an FBI Special Agent in Charge following Jiggly’s trail; and Lilly, a mother to two children suffering the loss of her husband to suicide.
Although the story is broken up by six different point of view characters, it’s easy to follow each of their threads. Not only is each character listed at the beginning of the chapter to assist the reader, they each start on their very own path, in isolation to the rest of the story. For around the first half of Jigglyspot and the Zero Intellect, these isolated stories build independently of one another, leading the reader to wonder how they will tie into the overarching narrative. Each story is thoroughly engaging, and had the author just chosen one of these perspectives to tell the story through, it would remain a strong horror novel. By including each of these perspectives, Alleva gives the reader six stories to remain invested in, wanting to know what happens next. Slowly, more hints are dropped as to how they relate to the broader narrative, before they coalesce into a beautiful whole.
If I were to describe Jigglyspot and the Zero Intellect’s plot in a single word, it would be “ambitious.” While this ambition is apparent through the six narrative threads building into one, they build into a story that moves beyond horror to include fantastical elements that take the characters into realms outside of human understanding (but fear not; the book itself is well within the realm of human understanding), while also providing some strong science fiction. To call it science fantasy would sell it short; it’s a book that feels so huge in scope that it transcends genre. Alleva’s mighty ambition pays off in spades, with the horror elements working in sync with the other genres, pulled together with intelligent literary devices to build towards a finale that is truly awe inspiring.
As he has top billing in the title, Jiggly is the star of Jigglyspot and the Zero Intellect. He is a sickening character whose acts of depravity are difficult to read, and yet, I found it very difficult to hate him. The author has done a brilliant job in realising the character, and moulding him into someone that is entertaining to read. Further, he has carefully balanced the writing to bring out an amusing side to the character and his acts, making for a blackly comedic clown. The character even has nuance, and the story tells us no matter how heinous somebody may be, it might be worth trying to save their soul. With Jiggly being a monster and this novel being a horror, it would serve to reason that the human point of view characters would act as the book’s heroes. However, not a single one of them acts as the book’s hero. Instead, these five characters find themselves in the situations the author has crafted for them, and act as human beings would. They are all nuanced, all flawed individuals, and often act in unlikable ways. For all the over the top situations these characters end up in, Jigglyspot and the Zero Intellect is an exploration of their humanity.
The dialogue throughout the novel is clean, clear and most importantly, realistic, grounding the characters despite the craziness and depravity at the book’s core. The author uses dialogue sparingly and ensures that when it appears in the book, it packs a punch. This leaves the prose to do the heavy lifting. Alleva is a master at writing prose that builds suspense and draws out horror, keeping the reader eagerly turning the pages to see what happens next. The book favours long paragraphs packed with details and interspersed with fun diversions about the characters and world. It all flows beautifully without ever feeling lost. With six point of view characters, the prose reads differently for each one, but they all feel consistent with one another.
If the title Jigglyspot and the Zero Intellect grabbed your attention—and I don’t see how this title couldn’t have grabbed your attention—you should be warned about its subject matter that delights in the perverse. More than a horror story, it is a book of horrors. It’s a book of horrors that transcends genre; a piece of literary fiction that will draw you in and surprise you at every turn.
Jiggly enjoyed the kind remarks, praise, and, well, let’s be honest, ass kissing brown nosing he received when he presented for solstice. Kitchen was filled with Jiggly’s people—the clowns—scrambling and mixing, stirring, preparing. He rolled his eyes when Poltiere complimented him on his use of dark purple and red. “Lights up your eyes,” said Poltiere.
Jiggly had a fleeting thought where he saw himself drinking extraction from Poltiere’s husband, with the grand chef a passive observer strapped to the chair Jiggly tied him to. And Jiggly laughed out loud.Jigglyspot and the Zero Intellect, Part IV: “The Red Carpet Ceremony,” Chapter 14
Jigglyspot and the Zero Intellect was provided by the author for the purpose of an honest review.
Jigglyspot and the Zero Intellect will be available in paperback, hardcover and eBook from retailers, including—but not limited to—Amazon, from 31 October 2023.
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- Amazon – To be added upon the book’s release
Interested in purchasing Jigglyspot and the Zero Intellect?
Please find a link below; please note I do not collect any proceeds from the sale.Jigglyspot and the Zero Intellect: An Addictive Horror Novel