Review: The Breakroom of a Thousand Nightmares by Roy Griffis
Griffis’ finale of the Cthulhu, Amalgamated trilogy manages to keep things fresh.
In Roy Griffis’ wonderfully crafted world set in the inner workings of the cosmic beuracracy that deals with all things Not Meant To Be Known, our hero-shoggoth Narg’Lah is finding things changing around his corner of the dimension. Demons have begun sharing company space, in addition to the standard many-eyed, many-tentacled Lovecraftian sort; Narg finds himself fending off accusations from co-workers that all his time among the Poo Flingers has made him soft; but worst of all, he returns to his office to find everything being moved and his beloved secretary Bugg being reassigned. Our boy is movin’ on up, as it were, tasked with a new mission personally by Uncle Beefbits. Before long he’s swept off to Earth, with the now-standard lack of any sort of explanation.
Upon finding himself in his new “meatsuit”, he finds his largely unwilling but unfailingly faithful pal Murph sharing the body’s conciousness. After an inital stint of realizing they are in total darkness and immobile, they are hauled out of a car trunk by an ominous bunch of ruffians in the middle of a parking lot, and realize they are a) female b) alive and c) both completely out of their element in the present-day world. What unfurls after is another of Griffis’ trademark jaunts combining his signature comedy, dash of mystery and this time, Greys and feds. The one thing that does immediately present itself as strange (well, stranger than usual), is that CERN (where their host is employed as a janitor) is currently housing a massive high-tech somethingorother that bears a remarkable resemblance to the atrocity-summoning Sun Stone from the second book.
Narg and Murph, our buddy-duo protagonists, have been profiled in my reviews for Griffis’ two previous books in the series, The Thing From HR and The Auditors of Doom, so by all means check those posts out for a more in-depth run down on them. They basically boil down to a nebbishy Shoggoth and a surfer dude who died in the 70.
Helena is this entry’s “meatsuit”, and is by far the book’s most well fleshed out and sympathetic figure. Unique to this entry, she is very much alive, and eventually becomes aware of the presence of Murph and Narg sharing her headspace, though she initally believes them to be demons. So why doesn’t this freak her out? Helena, it is learned, has been regularly visited by aliens (malevolent ones, known as The Greys) since childhood, and suffered a life of loneliness and isolation because of it. Her parents never believed her stories, and her ingrained paranoia has left her single living in a tiny apartment in her 60s. She actually finds herself grateful for the companyof the voices she hears. Murph, in this regard, takes on a particularly sweet role as her companion, giving her a friend to talk to while Narg parses their surroundings for clues as to their assignment.
Of course, Murph and Narg use this to learn as much as they can about her and the world they find themselves both a stranger in, eventually learning that she works at a janitor at CERN, and that -- surprise surprise-- there’s work being done to discover new dimensions in space.
But the Greys aren’t the only people pestering Helena; I don’t want to say too much here, because the character relations do get quite layered rather early on, but I’ll only say that other notable characters include an old flame of Helena’s who’s now working for the government, Ilsa-babe (Murph’s main squeeze, read book one at least) shares brain space with one of the Greys, and someone who’s a very big fan of a certain failed painter with a distinct mustache and one testicle.
This one skips around quite a bit, which is perhaps fitting for an big, epic trilogy finish. While Thing and Auditors remained in a single setting, Breakroom begins in modern-day Germany and by the end warps back to 1940s Antarctica. As is generally the case with Griffis’ books, the outer world settings (save for the climaxes) tend to take a backseat to dialogue and character development, and this entry is no exception. The current world time setting that makes up the majority of the book does make for some interesting new drama, as even Murph finds himself hopelessly out of his element. Both he and Narg marvel at the small black boxes that modern humans worship, for instance; and the addition of Helena as an added member of the team was a spin on the formula, and is an easily likable and sympathetic reader avatar to help give the lay of the land to the two.
As with Griffis’ previous two entries, Breakroom does not venture into any serious political hectoring, borrowing only what historical geopolitical elements might be necessary to service the plot.
Who’s it for?
Being the third book in the series, it’s for anyone who’s read and no doubt enjoyed his previous two entries. It’s also just straight-up funny, and accessible enough that one need not be a fan of Lovecraft to get most of the jokes; even a passing familiarity with his monsters will suffice.
Why Read it?
Obviously I’m a huge fan of Griffis; horror comedy is a tough nut to crack, and Lovecraftian comedy tougher, but he does so in ways that have had me genuinely belly laughing for three books now. If it could somehow land in the hands of the right people, I’m convinced Griffis, with his keen screenwriting chops, could turn this into one of the most original franchises in a generation. It’s that good. If you’re tired of the constant mainstream slop being shoved into your face, splurge this summer and grab the trilogy. You’ll have good vibes from beyond the stars.
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