BC Furtney dedicates Scarla to Chenga, ‘who never stopped enduring’ and Dissed, ‘who never stopped believing.’ To experience Scarla is to endure some of the most horrendous, over the top, controversial depictions that have ever made their way into print. Scarla is not for those with a weak stomach and nervous disposition. Indeed, to pinpoint who Scarla’s target audience is would be a problematic task. Scarla is for free thinkers, with an appetite for the obscene, who don’t just push boundaries but redefine them. This is Furtney’s debut novella, yet for those who are familiar with his previous work you’ll know he doesn’t write to please the masses. This is to the novella what A Serbian Film is to cinema, a rich social commentary wrapped inside a blood-drenched sodomising cock.
Scarla works for the police as a covert killer masquerading as a prostitute. To keep her in check she takes a derivative of speed and, for the first half of Scarla, has a tracking verichip implanted inside her arm echoing William Friedkin’s underrated film Bug. When we meet her she has very little left in life aside from her kickboxing trainer and Father figure, Big H. Her absence of anything concrete or worthwhile allows her to play along with this dark, twisted tale revolving around a sexually transmitted disease that turns people into grotesque mutations of their former self with cannibal tendencies. Scarla’s objective is to stop this, yet the further she is sucked into this world of decay and depravity, the further from preventing the travesties she becomes.
To give a full picture of Scarla would be to commit a grave injustice to the reader. This is not something to be discussed at great length, and if you are that way inclined speak at a whisper with a closed, preferably locked, door. Scarla relies on perverse surprise, warped ideas and well thought-out, interesting and for the most part, mentally unstable characters. Scarla finds herself absorbed in a man’s world where most men have, at some point or another, taken advantage of her, yet she is not the sort of girl who will allow you to walk away free. If she’s not dead she will avenge any injustices committed against her and you will bear witness to this should you dare to read Scarla. Make no mistake this isn’t an easy read. To read this is to take up the challenge, to finish it is to be labelled sick or a champion.
In addition to a rich plot, Scarla has a lot of sexually exciting and violent imagery. It’s the type of book where you’re not quite sure if you should be aroused or repulsed. There are multiple moments within Scarla where you will be ready to hurl at the grotesque violence exhibited before you, only for the perpetrator to climax. Even the sex scenes are framed in such a way that screams ‘cannibalistic snuff’. It takes a certain type of person to be able to read, ‘gnawing through the remainder of her throat until the head fell off’ sat next to ‘he tore her pants away, ate deep into her vagina, spat out a tampon.’ To reconcile the ideas and prevent constant stomach churning is a taxing task.
Scarla is worth reading because it won’t be like anything else you have ever experienced. It is part fantasy, part erotica, part horror, part weird fiction and part snuff. Whether or not you enjoy the experience is less certain, but you’ll react to it. If you like the idea of blood splatter on the scale of Tokyo Gore Police with sex scenes that make A Serbian Film look vanilla and characters so real you can sense them over your shoulder, pick up Scarla. If you’d rather sleep easy at night and not have a concoction of semen and blood permanently glued to your eyeballs give this one a miss. BC Furtney has once again created something unforgettable, or should that be unforgiveable?