Though I’m sure to upset some authors and publishers who, understandably, want five-star reviews, I’ve my own definition of the five-star system.
*One Star: A crime against God and man.
*Two Stars: Poor, or otherwise not ready for publication.
*Three Stars: A solid work worth the money/read.
*Four Stars: A superior, award-worthy achievement.
*Five Stars: A standard setter, a work to stand the test of time, a work to be studied and read again and again….
Meat, by Joseph D’Lacey
A Genre-bending Nightmare
With certain books–like this one–a question might arise. “Why review this novel?” The answer doesn’t come as easy as one might imagine. In this case, and with similar quality books, it’s tempting to pass the whole review-thang.
Because the book may seem too big a hit, too popular, already well-plugged (and in this case, by Stephen King, no less). What could be the point of one more review?
On the other hand, this is a work I read and enjoyed. And really, will one more review hurt anyone?
In this case, it just might.
“Meat” is a four-star (meaning award-worthy) novel. It’s also one of those rare stories that is destined–once consumed–to stay with a reader. Like, forever. Some stories do that. They not only entertain, but they … they leave their mark on a given consumer.
Meat certainly does.
Here’s the book’s description, as rendered on Amazon:
Abyrne, the last enclave in a wasteland. All food is produced by Magnus Meat Processing and controlled by the Parsons of the Welfare. Richard Shanti, the ‘Ice Pick’, is Abyrne’s legendary bolt-gunner, dispatching hundreds of animals every hour to supply the townsfolk with all the meat they could want. But Shanti is having doubts about his line of work. When war breaks out between the corporate and religious factions, Shanti must sacrifice everything he loves in order to reveal the truth behind Abyrne’s power structures and fight for what he knows is right. In a world where eating meat has become not only a human right, but a sacred duty, what happens to those who question the nature of the food source? The townsfolk are hungry. The townsfolk must be fed…
With the above description, if a person hasn’t already figured out the mystery of just what this protein source happens to be, then such a reader is probably new to the realm of dark fiction.
Without giving away any spoilers, suffice it to say, that despite this reader “knowing” what
was up, almost from the git … I was still moved. Still disgusted. Still horrified. Still amazed at how the plot, the characters, this future post-apocalyptic scenario (and town, and people) kept me reading and reading, pages turning and turning.
I was also surprised at how the work challenged certain areas of my thinking, about the food industry, about my own dietary habits, my views on … a number of things.
And this is one of the criticisms of the book, at least leveled by some. That “Meat” is a manifesto, a piece of propaganda, a socio-political experiment.
Maybe it is.
Perhaps, like Nabokov’s book “Lolita,” it’s a practical joke on the reader. An experiment to see if whether or not the prose is solid enough, can a reader be subjected to bevy after bevy of gross-outs.
Is the work more horrifying than “Make Room, Make Room,” by Harry Harrison, or the symbiotic relationship between Wells’s Eloi and Morlocks? Maybe not. But whereas those stories offer a safer and more oblique–more theoretical form of horrific realization, “Meat” SHOWS … EVERYTHING.
It rubs the viscera, bloody and raw, in the reader’s face. Daring a person to put the book down … to return, perhaps, on another day. Double-dares a person to only take on a few chapters at a time … anything to let story digestion take place a little easier on the stomach.
Yet the blood-and-guts, the smell, the touch, is not the real horror. It’s the clinical, apathetic, business-like way that the carnage is conducted.
But is this a book of horror?
But it’s also undeniably a work of science fiction. If for no other reason than for the period of time in which the story takes place, which is some undefined point in the future (ala McCarthy’s “The Road”).
The work’s also a character study. A sociological study. Hence, the charges ofpropagandistic writing.
How does this critical reader define this genre-bending novel?
“Meat,” by Joseph D’Lacey, is a fairy tale.
A not-so-modernistic-as-it-might-seem fairy tale. And one of the grimmest sort.
Heart-rending (if not flesh-rending).
It’s a must-read by any horror aficionado. In short order, I’ll be taking on the rest of D’Lacey’s catalogue.
I suggest others do the same.
Just have a strong stomach.
All my best,
Rob M. Miller
Winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer, D’Lacey is best known for his shocking eco-horror novel MEAT. The book has been widely translated and prompted Stephen King to say “Joseph D’Lacey rocks!”.
When not realising his fantasies on paper, he dabbles in Yoga and continues a quest for the ultimate vegetarian burger recipe.
He lives in Northamptonshire with his wife and daughter.
Be sure to visit Mr. D’Lacey at his website.