Meat: Joseph D’Lacey
Reviewed By Brian Bogart
‘God is supreme. The flesh is sacred.’
Somehow, I missed this book making the rounds when it was first released. Published originally in 2008, I do wonder what a younger me would have taken from this novel. Oh, I am sure that I would have still enjoyed it (D’Lacey is a great writer and has a knack for disturbing detail)- but would I have read it as a vegetarian doctrine of some sort and let that deter me from fully appreciating it? Hell, years can change a man. I honestly don’t know how a younger me would have taken it.
Lucky for this review, that guy isn’t reading it. So, um- let’s dig into the “meat” that is MEAT.
Welcome to Abryne, a small enclave where all food is supplied by Magnus Meat Processing (MMP). And these food sources hold not just nourishment for the religious townsfolk, but thanks to the Parsons of Welfare’s watchful eye and firm grip- ties into their lives spiritually as well. The words written in the Book of Giving speak of the sacredness of the flesh of The Chosen, who freely give of themselves so that they may live. It’s a disturbing play on the scriptures: “drink of my blood, eat of my flesh”, quite literally.
But things at MMP are not as black and white as they seem. In dark fiction, they rarely are. Magnus himself is a power-hungry and tyrannical despot, despising the Parsons’ control. While his business relies on their religious fanaticism- the relationship is becoming more strained every day. He has built an Empire on the slaughter of his “cattle”- going so far as to lie about the supply to drive up the prices. Lying is just the tip of the iceberg. He commands obedience and sees no man’s flesh as sacred. All must bow, all lives are forfeit, if he so wishes. And he often does.
Oh, there is more than enough supply to meet demand- hundreds are slaughtered by the hour. This is in part thanks to Richard Shanti. Nicknamed “The Icepick”, due to his cold and brutal efficiency with the stun gun, he’s a large part of the processing plant. A damn superstar, in his co-worker’s eyes. But Shanti is having doubts. The Chosen speak to him, despite their broken tongues.
While he tries to make their suffering as painless as possible, he can’t continue this forever. He hasn’t eaten meat in ages, either. That alone, in Abyrne, can be a death sentence. It also brings the town’s holy belief in the Book under scrutiny. But there are others, like him, who have questioned. The time just may be right for a not just a change- but a war…
I feel like I gave away a bit above, but not really. (The book’s packaging gives away about as much, honestly.)
A lot of my enjoyment in this tale was in how. D’Lacey has crafted something that is dark and disturbing. The exuberant detail that went into the first half of the book was great. Not just setting up the town and its people, but the descriptions of the workings of the processing plant itself. It is grisly. Some of it sits on the stomach, resting uneasily in your gut. Especially as a meat-eater.
You figure something will lead into the cannibalism, a gradual crawl to depravity. Perhaps, even revealed in a grand finale of sorts.
NOPE. It has been going strong for years in Abyrne.
This book is like a stun gun to the head. My eyes probably glassed over as more of Magnus’ grip on their town tightened, as the bodies began to pile up and stink. You really feel for Shanti and his unique position inside the whole damn mess. Watching the factions play into and off of one another was fun. Magnus? Power may corrupt, but some people are just evil. He’s one of them.
It is gory. Brutal and exact. A bit of warning, to some: there are scenes not just of violence but the mistreatment of women, as well. The book has a lot to say about the ethical treatment of animals, under the guise of a horror story. It doesn’t come across as overly preachy to me, personally, though some readers may feel differently. I mean, I am married to a woman who doesn’t eat meat, while I still do.
While I enjoyed the first half a bit more than the second half (a tad predictable)- do not let that deter you. The author has crafted a clever novel and a compelling read, if you have the stomach for it. Hell, it’s even enlightening, given some of the practices that go down in the shadows of slaughterhouse and processing plants. A simple switch of the species can make all the difference in the world.
It is a disturbing and strange trip. I can only sum up the book with a single phrase:
D’Lacey’s unique take on ritualistic cannibalism easily led me to the slaughter.
‘God is supreme. The flesh is sacred.’
In Abyrne, a strange town surrounded by a wasteland, the eating of meat is a sacred obligation. The town’s strict laws are brutally enforced by a ruthless Baron and a merciless Bishop.
Adored by the townsfolk is Richard Shanti, Abyrne’s famous bolt-gunner – the most efficient slaughterhouse worker in living memory. In private, however, Shanti is a gentle man; a husband, and father to twin girls. The growing guilt about his murderous job weighs him down.
Beguiled by a rebellious heretic, Shanti uncovers the harrowing truth behind Abyrne’s history. When the town’s corporate and religious factions come into conflict, he must choose a side. By fighting for what he knows is right, Shanti will risk everything and everyone he loves.
Meanwhile, the townsfolk are hungry. The townsfolk must be fed…
Brian Bogart is an American author, residing in Northern Ireland. His love of genre fiction started at an early age, consuming every horror and fantasy book available. He has been published in various degrees online and contributed a short fiction piece, “TOCSIN”, to The One Million Project (OMP) Thriller Anthology in an effort to raise money for cancer research and the homeless. He loves to share his enthusiasm for the horror genre with others and help promote other authors.
His latest story, alongside many other authors, can be found in the pages of EPIC FANTASY SHORT STORIES, coming soon from Flame Tree Publishing.
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