Thursday, January 10, 2008

Book Review: Meat by Joseph D'Lacey

Everyone has their different viewpoints on eating meat and vegetarianism. Some people can’t imagine living without eating tasty, tasty meat while some people can’t imagine eating meat from such cute wittle animals! It’s true that some slaughterhouses have appalling conditions for the animals that become many people’s dinners and most people don’t even know how their meat is really prepared or what additives are put in it.

Do you know exactly what is in your “meat” that you buy at the grocery store? Where did it come from and how did it get there? These terrifying questions are examined in Joseph D’Lacey’s debut novel, Meat. Like a hammer to the back of a cow’s head, Meat will stun you. It’ll open your eyes and just might jolt you from complacency to action. One thing is definitely for certain, you’ll never look at a piece of meat the same again.

The decaying and desolate town of Abyrne sits in the middle of a vast wasteland. As far as the townsfolk are concerned, there is nothing beyond its borders. Abyrne was build upon the promise that their god would provide them with meat from The Chosen, cattle sacrificed especially for the religious people of Abyrne as long as they followed the religious teachings of the Gut Psalter and The Book of Giving texts. Something is going wrong in Abryne, though. People are beginning to get sick. And certain man named John Collins has been leading a resistance on the outskirts of town, proclaiming that meat is not necessary for survival.

In the eyes of the Grand Bishop and the Meat Baron, Collins’ words are blasphemy. Yet to others, others who see a frightening resemblance in themselves and the Chosen, Collins makes sense. One who comes to believe Collins is Richard Shanti, the Meat Baron’s top slaughterer of Chosen.

Those who don’t follow the religious teachings and don’t eat meat are stripped of their status…or stripped of their own skin. As both the Grand Bishop and the Meat Baron hunt for “blasphemer” John Collins, Richard Shanti’s world becomes more perilous as well. Can Shanti continue his job killing the Chosen and therefore continue living a lie? Will the Meat Baron discover his secret? What is his special connection to the Chosen and to John Collins?

Joseph D’Lacey has crafted a fine page-turner that, to loosely paraphrase former U.S. president Teddy Roosevelt, speaks softly but carries a large stun gun. His prose is so eloquent, so well-written, that when the blood really starts to flow you are left stunned and shaken. And this is coming from a life-time horror fan!
From the first paragraph I was hooked, as D’Lacey crafts both sympathetic and horrendous characters, ones we come to both love and loathe. The characters of John Collins and Richard Shanti are well-developed, with many layers to both men. The Meat Baron and the Grand Bishop are also humanized instead of just being caricatures of “Evil” with a capital E. In the end, you may even be sympathetic towards them because they can’t “see the light.” Even the voiceless Chosen are characters we care deeply about.

The feelings we develop for the characters make the horrors contained within all that more terrifying. There is plenty of sadistic torture that is sure to make even the most hardened of horror fiction fans squirm in their seats. For example, the Meat Baron makes sure his enemies and any of his employees that misbehave suffer a very painful, very prolonged death. The torture first begins with puncturing the vocal cords so the person cannot even scream as their bodies are methodically broken down. The torture scenes are pretty graphic and will cause you to recoil in your seat! D’Lacey also writes very vivid imagery of the slaughterhouses themselves. I have watched some devastating real-life slaughterhouse videos, but D’Lacey’s graphic descriptions were almost worse because of the emotion he added.

Even though Meat may sound like a novel that tries to shove vegetarianism and/or veganism down your throat, that isn’t the case at all. In fact, there are so many layers to the book that you can choose to read it for its many subtexts and social commentary (on everything from big corporations, religion, mass consumerism, conformity, etc.) or just read it for pure, bloody entertainment. Still, you cannot read this book without being disgusted and appalled at the slaughterhouse and meat plant conditions contained herein. I’m not a vegetarian, but after reading Meat I’m seriously tempted to become one. That alone speaks volumes about the power of this book.

[Update: Editor and founder Sarah "Fatally Yours" Jahier in fact went vegan and credits Meat to making her more aware of the cruelties of animal agriculture as well as making her more aware of what she puts inside her body.] 

Available from Amazon!

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