Insatiable: Jack Bantry & Robert Essig
Reviewed By Ben Walker
- Paperback: 148 pages
- Publisher: Independently published (6 Jun. 2019)
Insatiable is essentially a mashup of Cronenberg’s Shivers and 28 Days Later. Sex-crazed freaks are on the rampage thanks to a lab experiment gone wrong, and it’s up to a couple of luckless punks and a pair of lab workers to find a cure.
It’s another late-night drive-in movie of a novel from the guys who brought you Ain’t Worth a Shit, and where that book delved into the sleazy side of London, this just felt sleazy. And not always in an entertaining way. The fact that the violence here is sexual means a lot of rape scenes, or near-misses, and it’s the mounting threat of being mounted which horrifies the most, as desperate victims try to claw themselves away from attackers or otherwise fight them off. Others aren’t so lucky, and while the story demands fresh infected to keep the threat alive, the scenes in which you’re made to witness an assault right to the bitter end makes for some uncomfortable, sometimes off-putting reading.
With all that said, it sometimes feels like the book doesn’t quite go far enough with its premise. There’s another book which covered a similar idea not too long ago, and that’s Cockblock by CV Hunt. The plot there involves all men becoming rapists and the women of the world dealing with the resulting terror. That story goes much further in terms of pure horror and does more with the overall concept. By comparison, Insatiable felt a bit tame. Of course, the sexual attacks are horrifying, as is the sometimes slow, sometimes rapid degradation of characters into sex-hungry maniacs. But Cockblock balanced that violence alongside pitch-black humour, with men barking the worst one-liners in history. There, if you laughed, it was at how pathetic the men came across, which was kind of the point. Any levity in Insatiable comes from cheeky banter, with the punk heroes bickering over booze & drugs, or joking around after they nearly get molested. After such raw, shocking violence, these lighthearted moments often feel out of place.
This patchiness also extends to the narrative, with one set of characters sidelined for a good 6 chapters or so. I had to flick back through the book to remind myself who they were, and sometimes other characters pop back up who you either won’t remember or were never introduced to before, which can be frustrating. I was also a bit disappointed that the punk element was underplayed, especially after it features so heavily in that great Dan Henk cover art and in the blurb. You get the odd mention of Crass or an old drummer joke, but again, the book reads like it’s holding back in some regards. Mostly it’s a lot of influences fighting against each other for room on the page, often at the expense of the characters who are either fodder or fighters. Now that’s fine from a B-movie point of view, but I couldn’t shake the comparison between this and Cockblock, or even Shivers, which felt far more self-assured and ultimately more satisfying.
So while it’s entertaining enough to absorb in one sitting, Insatiable didn’t leave me lusting for more.
From Robert Essig, author of Death Obsessed, In Black and People of the Ethereal Realm, and Jack Bantry, author of The Lucky Ones Died First and editor of Splatterpunk Zine.
For some of the punks, it was just another night at a local gig. Partying with crazy people after gigs was nothing new, but on this night there was something in the air. Was it all the tequila and weed? Something was turning the locals into maniacs . . . deviants.
Something was giving them an INSATIABLE sexual appetite!
For Megan it was another late night at the lab, but when she needed another cup of coffee what she discovered in the break room would shock her to the core. And that was just the beginning…of the end of the world!
Punk rockers, secret labs, sexy cops and animal rights activists. INSATIABLE will take you to hell and back!
Ben got a taste for terror after sneaking downstairs to watch The Thing from behind the sofa at age 9. He’s a big fan of extreme & bizarre horror and well as more psychological frights, and most things in between. When he’s not reading, he’s writing, and when he’s not writing he’s on twitter @BensNotWriting or reviewing books on his YouTube channel, BLURB.