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[Book Review] The Pickle Index by Eli Horowitz, Illustrated by Ian Huebert

Updated: Mar 25

By A.M. Larks

The Pickle Index is another dystopian satirical novel brought to you by the minds that created The Silent History. And like The Silent History, each format, app, hardcover, or paperback is unique unto its form. The hardcover for The Pickle Index is a two-volume set designed to be read in alternating chapters in alternating books aptly named “News” and “Snacks”, for reasons that will be clear later. They connect to give the whole picture, and so too do the illustrations, which quite join together to paint a larger, wider scene.


The Pickle Index is set in a draconian nation ruled by a popular, infamous, celebrity dictator. The “News” version is the official story of the events told by pro-government journalists who parlay, often into gossiping tangents. Like certain non-fictional news outlets, it tells far too little about the actual events and far too much about anything else. “Snacks” is the unofficial, highly entertaining telling of the real people behind the “official” story: the failing circus folks branded as rebels threatening to dismantle the establishment and all that it stands for. A threat to democracy, if, of course, this was one.


The true feat of The Pickle Index, besides the gut-busting humor, is that each volume — each version of events — can stand alone. Each is a complete narrative. Neither needs the other volume to satisfy general storytelling principles but both are an incomplete truth on their own, which is exactly the point. One could read “News” or “Snacks” alone, but by doing so the reader would then be without the entire story because some events can only be told from another point of view.


Additionally, a reader could also read one volume and then the other. But would that reader be as open to a reinterpretation of events once the first telling is complete? If our real-world events are taken into account, the answer is decidedly and emphatically, no. We choose our sides and stick with them come hell or highwater, or unjust/creative executions for made-up crimes, whatever the case may be.  


The whole truth, the whole story, in life, as with The Pickle Index is only complete when all sides are heard, then one not only be appalled at the complacency of the general public but understand their herd mentality. Watching the stick unfold and the carrot offered from both positions allows the reader to root for our unlikely performers while they make the most unlikely leap of all, not into the movies from tv, not just into heroes in a satire, but also the distance it takes to see the similarities play out in our lives beyond the page. One hopes that we do not need Kornblatt’s Multivalent Carnument to save us too.


A.M. Larks’s writing has appeared in NiftyLitScoundrel TimeAssay: A Journal of Nonfiction StudiesFive on the FifthCharge Magazine, and the  ZYZZYVA  and  Ploughshares  blogs. She has served as a judge for the Loud Karma Productions’ Emerging Female and Nonbinary Playwriting Award and has performed her stories at Lit Up at Town Hall Theatre in Lafayette, CA. She is the managing editor and blog editor at Kelp Journal. She is the former fiction editor at Please See Me, the former blog editor at The Coachella Review, as well as the former photography editor at Kelp Journal. A.M. Larks earned an MFA in creative writing from UC Riverside at Palm Desert, a JD, and a BA in English literature.



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