Underland, August 2011
Trade Paperback, 320 pages, $14.95
ISBN: 978-0982663943

Get ready for a wild ride. Over his long career, John Shirley has earned his reputation as a writer that doesn't pull his punches, and doesn't treat his readers gently. In Extremis features more than twenty of Shirley's most intense stories originally published in anthologies and periodicals like Asimov's Science Fiction, Cemetery Dance, and New Noir. In addition, this volume contains two never-before-published stories that are sure to roil the genre's most hardened readers.


  • You Blundering Idiot, You Fucking Failed to Kill Me Again
  • Cram
  • Just Like Suzie
  • Just A Suggestion
  • The Exquisitely Bleeding Heads of Doktur Palmer Vreedeez
  • Cul-De-Sac
  • Gotterdammergun
  • "I Want to Get MArried," Says the World's Smallest Man
  • Faces in Walls
  • Learn at Home! Your Career in Evil!
  • Paper Angels on Fire
  • Call Girl, Echoed
  • You Hear What Buddy and Ray Did?
  • Smartbomber
  • Raise Your Hand if You're Dead
  • The Gun as an Aid to Poetry
  • Animus Rights
  • Skeeter Junkie
  • Tighter
  • Ten Things to Be Grateful For
  • Screw


'Shirley has moved far from his cyberpunk origins, something that quickly becomes obvious as one moves through this collection of 22 stories. Some might label theses tales splatterpunk, a more recent genre associated with Shirley, but they'd be wrong. These stories, which cut into the human condition like a coroner on acid, defy pigeonholing. The net result is one of the most frightening books of fiction one may ever encounter. Most of the pieces concern characters releasing personal demons or trying to stuff them back into the darkness from whence they emerged. Nazis rub shoulders with abusive parents, psychopaths of all colors and flavors ply their trades, while phantasmagorical demons lurk in the wings. Continuing in the grand tradition of Dante, Shirley leads the reader on a tour of the levels of hell, but it's an all-too-recognizable, modern hell. Horror fans up for something that will scare the living crap out of them need look no further.' (Elliott Swanson)-- Booklist

'The extreme nature of [Shirley's] work is found in his unflinching look into the dark realms of the human condition. Opening this book is like staring through one of the worst peepholes you can imagine. There is no author working in the horror genre today that does a better job of shining light on these horrors while maintaining a moral center. Horrible and brutal things happen to many of the characters, but Shirley does not mock or exploit the suffering of his characters, even in his most outrageous and darkly funny pieces....Shirley has taken great care to create a rhythm with the stories, which are, in turn, comical, brutal, thoughtful and at times moving. Some highlights include "Cram", the heartbreaking story of a bike messenger trapped in a subway during an earthquake called 'Cram', the haunting ghost tale "Just a Suggestion", and the hilarious "I Want to Get Married Says the World's Smallest Man". To me, the most heartbreaking of all was the science fiction short "Call Girl Echoed". I read "Call Girl Echoed" when it was first collected in the Anthology of Dark Wisdom. It is a story of technology and the horrible disconnect we are headed towards. Shirley is a master at storytelling and at getting a message across without preaching. Near the end of the collection is a powerful story called "Animus Rights", which is worth the cover price alone....Shirley does an amazing job of involving us in characters you don't often see in horror fiction, like methheads, sex-workers, and homeless junkies. For instance, "You Hear What Ray and Buddy Did" is about bi-sexual junkies turning tricks and "Tighter" is about a single mom/prostitute who has a john who never thinks he is close enough to dying during sex. "Just Like Suzie" is just as gore-drenched as anything by Edward Lee, but this story of a prostitute who dies while giving oral sex to a john is so disturbing that it makes you cringe, and feel gross and awful for being amused at the same time. I am not sure in all my years of reading horror I have been more uncomfortable reading a single story....[Stephen] King's Skeleton Crew and Night Shift contain some amazing examples of a master short story writer's finest works. Take any of Barker's six Books of Blood and you could teach master classes on the short story. In Extremis, is one of three John Shirley collections that rank that highly, the other two being Black Butterflies (which won the International Horror Guild Award and the Bram Stoker) and Living Shadows. Any serious student of the short story needs all three books on their shelf. (David Agranoff) -- MonsterLibrarian.com

'Focusing on Shirley's "extreme" stories, many of which have undergone minor rewrites and been updated with contemporary references, the collection includes plenty of visceral horror and twisted sensibilities while still valuing storytelling over shock. Shirley is equally at home with redneck humor and irony ("You Blundering Idiot, You Fucking Failed to Kill Me Again"), old-school sci-fi twists ("Gotterdammergun"), and graphic horror ("Tighter"). All are told masterfully, especially the creepy and graphic "Cul-de-Sac"'--Publishers Weekly

'Extreme, as in the collection's title, means precisely that: Be prepared for the profoundly weird, up close and personal; the excessively edgy and eerie....Shirley's tales deliver a wild and rewarding ride. Drugs, sex, and heightened emotions drive the yarns. A pervasive sadness, born of resignation, is imbedded in the core of the narratives. Yet there's feistiness within the forlornness, dwelling in many of the hurt and hardened hearts. The author shrewdly philosophizes about what motivates the lost and disenfranchised. While the endings may not be considered happy in the conventional sense of the word, they suit the complicated and sometimes comical credos of the characters. The author balances the existential and elemental aspects of his creations with a keen eye for belligerent behavior, and a wise whimsical sensibility of "What if?"... John Shirley likes to play with what happens when push comes to shove. He enjoys prodding and provocation. With In Extremis he ignites emotional powder kegs. The 22 stories gathered in this volume are severe and often sardonic. And satiating in a deeply disturbing way.' (Sheila M. Merrit)-- Hellnotes