Deoxyribonucleic acid, also known as DNA, is the fuel for life as we know it. The more chromosomes a creature has, the more complex they are with humans maxing out at 44. This ninth grade Biology lesson is torn asunder by George Miller in his 2017 work “Francis of the Filth.” An entry into the “Do what?” subgenre of science fiction, “Francis of the Filth” will pull you in by your chromosomes on Mr. Toad’s merry ride of buffoonery.
Centering around the eponymous Francis, a child discovered in a sewer in Indonesia, most of the plot takes place (in Earth-time) not long after the end of World War II. Francis, known for most of the book as Frank, is a natural-born genius with a strange genetic history and a penchant for self-obsessed scientific endeavors. Upon seemingly diagnosing himself with some new virulent variation of cancer involving the rapid multiplication of chromosomes in place of mere cells, our hero naturally finds himself transported into the world between worlds. He is confronted by a character by the name of “Pink Guy”, and together with a swiftly assembled band of ragtag followers he sets off to do chromosomal combat with the feared Lord Chin Chin.
This is a tremendously creative book in both its premise and its execution. The very idea of using raw chromosomes as a source of power is certain to titillate even the most cynical of hard sci-fi fans. It’s quite similar to if Lewis Carroll went on a road trip with Hunter S Thompson and then wrote a science fiction novel. The story takes place in multiple dimensions, dealing with a myriad of bizarre characters and even more bizarre circumstances. It leaves the reader guessing as to what could happen next in terms of sheer literary novelty.
The book’s style, however, could also be its downfall. Simply put it is a very bizarre and off-color read, often to the point of being ludicrously over-the-top. In its efforts to baffle the reader with perplexing characters and unconventional dialogue, it often comes across as a bit forced. It’s as if Miller is trying too hard to write a weird and unorthodox book and in some places the writing seems to lose its sincerity. Less can certainly be more when it comes to pushing the envelope.
Despite its shortcomings, “Francis of the Filth” is still a decent read for those with a taste for something a bit different. If one can look past the occasionally sophomoric dialogue and incessantly strange themes, it’ll certainly entertain. Just be sure to count your chromosomes when you’re done, because Lord Chin Chin might be watching.