cover image The Merry Dredgers

The Merry Dredgers

Jeremy C. Shipp. Meerkat, $16.95 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-1-946154-46-0

Shipp (Bedfellow) skillfully skewers the cult qualities of self-actualization programs in this spooky, satirical send-up of a mind and body retreat with a shady side. Seraphina Ramon, who makes her living playing storybook princesses at children’s parties, is already struggling to accept her sister Eff’s wholehearted embrace of the Merry Dredgers, a suspicious self-help organization, when calamity strikes: Eff’s reviled ex-boyfriend is gravely injured in a hit-and-run accident, and Eff herself takes a suspicious fall that leaves her comatose. Suspecting the Dredgers’ hand in both incidents, Seraphina infiltrates a spiritual retreat that the organization is hosting, bizarrely, at an abandoned theme park, Goblintropolis. There, she submits to the ministrations of Ernie, the Dredgers’ leader, whose instruction in “energy work” to explore her “spiritual depths” distract from his disturbing power fantasies. The details of the Dredgers’ regimen of new age rituals, which appear all the more absurd for being enacted against a landscape of dilapidated rides and still functioning animatronic goblins, are consistently amusing. Readers who like their weird fiction with a dash of wry humor will eat this up. (Apr.)