By Joseph D’Lacey
Published by Bloody Books, 2008.
Meat was Joseph D’Lacey’s first novel initially released in 2008. Followed up by the excellent second novel, Garbage Man and the stunning novella, The Kill Crew in 2009. Both novels are shortly about to get a release in the USA and are now available as ebooks so I thought I would take a look at Meat.
Set in a dystopian future, the town of Abyrne is cut off from the rest of the world (if there is a rest of the world that is) by the Wasteland. Forced into self sufficiency the town relies on the Magnus Meat Processing plant to create a food source, “meat went to those who could afford it, life went to those who could afford it”.
Richard Shanti works at the plant where he deals the fatal blow to the cattle. Known as Ice Pick Rick for his speed and efficiency he appears to be the ultimate cold killing machine. He is, however, torn apart by guilt, but keeps doing his job, partly to protect his family, but also because he knows he can administer the cleanest, quickest death.
Within the derelict quarter of the town a lone voice is rebelling against the system. John Collins begins an almost Christ like crusade against the meat baron, Rory Magnus. The welfare are the towns religious power and work to ensure the religious code is followed by all parties with a secret police-like zeal.
And so the stage is set for an escalating power struggle which is well handled through a pacy plot that keeps ramping up the tension around the main characters. The bulk of the horror in the story revolves around the meat production process itself. “The Chosen” are processed through a gruesome series of steps. Horrendous enough when things go right but as the power struggle ensues things rarely do go right and the process descends into horrific abuse.
What makes the book even stronger is the fact that the processes described are all real and used in factory farming throughout the world so the torture we are reading about may well have played a part in the creation of your evening meal. Couple this with a twist (which I won’t reveal) that ramps up the power of the suffering to an even higher degree and we have a powerful social commentary wrapped up in a pacy thriller.
Having read and enjoyed Joseph D’Lacey’s other work the power of this novel doesn’t surprise me, what is surprising is it’s power as a first novel. D’Lacey really hit the ground running with this book, there really is very little to find fault with. Possibly the character of John Collin’s is not quite as well developed as some of the other major players, Magnus could be regarded as a bit of a stereotypical Boss Hogg character and I would have liked to see more of the everyday town people and how they viewed the power struggle (currently they are all treated as if one character). But these are all minor issues in what is an excellent, intelligent and extremely thought provoking horror novel.
Rating 4 out of 5
PS – Meat is currently available as an ebook here for the, frankly ridiculously low price of £1.59.