All Hallow’s Read (Day 9) – Lucifer’s Lottery

I could have picked any Edward Lee book for an All Hallows Read. Really. It’s all good. As far as Hell goes, I could recommend any of the City Infernal series. I could choo-choo-choose Black Train (a.k.a. Gast) for a creepy earth-bound tale. Monstrosity is another great one for budding crypto-zoologists. There is always The Bighead but that is getting enough press at the moment and really, I get to pick my favorite here.

Enter: Lucifer’s Lottery.

What more could a horror-hound want than a trip through Lee’s Hell with Howard Phillips Lovecraft as your guide? The amount of gore and perversion found in Lee’s work is more than enough to tickle your gag-reflex, should you still have one, and this one doles it out in spades. His books that feature Hell read like a Cenobite’s nightmare version of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But, you ought to see what they do to the Muggles there! Oh Mylanta!

This is one for the sicko. The perv. The blasphemer. The reader who delights in illustrated pathology texts or Gnostic tomes but spends as much time watching Saturday morning cartoons. You know, for the anvil drops.

It’s not all mutilated pubic mounds, effluent troughs, and burning bibles either. There are stories here. Even characters you meet for a flash are sketched so clear with intricate wording, you can’t help but adore even the most repulsive. And the bestiary! Well, that sort of crosses into the human and human-type characters too, depending. Fantasy for freaks. Science Fiction for sociopaths. If you are looking for something deeply disturbing with no holds barred page after page, this is your golden ticket.

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Rust and Blood by Ed Kurtz

Why is it that sometimes when you come across a name, no matter where you turn, they’re always there seemingly laughing at you from the cabbage bin? Seriously. The past two pieces I’ve reviewed have had something to do with Ed Kurtz, Abattoir Press, or something else that I can’t remember but wanted to add because I like to work my descriptions in groups of three.

This offering, this splendidly varied cornucopia of horrific horror, is Kurtz’s first collection of short stories. Albeit one of the shorter collections I’ve recently read… thankfully… it still packs a wallop of a punch, and fills time without making me wish I’d have YouTubed past glories from So You Think You Can Dance. I will warn you, though, Kurtz does throw out a few pieces you just can’t un-see, but they’re sell worth it. Well, everything but Pearls. That one’s just fucking gross and I really never want to read it again.

From Amazon:

Love and cannibalism, retribution and madness, the horrors people commit in the name of goodness and the abominations that await behind closed doors. RUST & BLOOD collects nine stories of horror and crime where the tables are always turned and no one ever gets out unscathed.

Kurtz opens up this collection with Hunger, and immediately makes a reference to Arsenic and Old Lace. This, in turn, garners him many points in my book, and thus indemnifies him from a negative review. That said, go buy this book.

From here on out, we’ll talk about the mating rituals of the Alaskan Deer Whale-Prawn… uh… what?

Oh. Sorry, Meli.

Okay folks, it seems that I missed something during my absence from DT over the last few months. I’m just receiving word from the powers that be about a memo that went around? Apparently I actually have to review the book before I go on about anybody or anything’s mating habits.

(Ah, a segue in poor taste, Colum… as usual… *groan*)

Hunger starts off with by introducing Matthew, a young man that was morbidly obese as a child who, through the marvels of biology, grows into his fleshy self, and finds newly awesome opportunities with the opposite sex. After several relationships and a desperate addiction to “the next lay”, he finds himself unemployed, disaffected, and eating like it’s going out of style.

Fast forward a bunch of years and a few thousand snack-cakes later, and we see Matthew working at a motel and eventually into the bed of a “professional” named Carla. I won’t give up the rest of it, but look at the title, the set-up of the main character, and you can hopefully see where this is going. And here’s about the point in the review where I’ll put the little idea about mating habits on the table, and leave you to lose your appetite and feel all sorts of uncomfortable. Yep. The reader is fortunate that Kurtz does a wonderful job playing with the story here, and makes this a great opener for what is promising to be a fun little collection of stories. Even if I’ve just put some things in your head that you wish weren’t there.

And then came Sinners – a story that opens with a bit of mystery and grows to become what the reader understands is a sort-of after school special on a bender with Satan. Well, that may be a little excessive, but we’re on a ride in the Kurtz-mobile, so it’s pretty damned on target, if you ask me.

As the story unravels, Kurtz lays out the story of a young man who, upon witnessing or acting in, a brutal experience, is let out of the hospital after a 14 year visit, only to return to the scene of the crime – his home town. But Dean and Lee have it in mind to fix the sitch by finishing what they think should have been finished all those years ago. They mean to kill Billy Thorpe in a sort of small town justice.

Kurtz then takes all of the readers’ expectations and turns them on their head, crafting a deliriously creepy climactic scene, and ensuring a wicked quick page turning end. This is a keeper, for sure. It’s fast, it’s twisting, and it’s chock full of the author’s now trademark style. If you weren’t a fan of Kurtz before, you’re sure to be won over by this one right here.

Slowpoke is up next, making this animal loving reader question the author for a moment, and then deciding to just give the guy a chance to lay out his tale.

Okay… hold on. “Animal loving reader”, as in: I think animals are awesome and should be treated well… not the other way. Carry on.

Two drunkards, and apparently gamblers from the sounds of it, are deep in the sauce when one decides it’s time to kill himself a horsie. Why? A losing bet, I’m supposing. Regardless, they kick off the stools and get to the driving in search of vengeance and a weapon. What they get instead is a pain in the ass from “cousin Ike”, and a great scene full of hilarity that Kurtz pulls off expertly.

Fast forward to the ending, and what we have here is a wicked little ditty that teaches folks about the whole “what goes up must come down” mantra, and when it comes down, it’s probably going to ruin your t-shirt and kill your best friend. But the story isn’t finished yet, as Arnold, one of the two guys who tried to kill Mr. Ed, is put away, eventually gets out, and has to serve community service in a very embarrassing manner. And yes, there’s a great big LOL over here, and a LOL over there. When Kurtz wants to play with his characters and exhibit his wit, he does it well. Kurtz ends this story with a breezy, Tales from the Crypt feel, and again wins this reader’s continued attention.

So then we come to Family Bible, a tale that sees a sort of backwoods Romeo and Juliet, but not, thing going on. You know how these things go. One family is wicked strange, the other is… wicked strange. And two of these folks fall in love. This is a Kurtzified R&J version. So yeah… thar be blood.

Basically, what we see is a young Ezra falling in love with Annabelle, but their love is forbidden as per the Family Bible. Ezra is made to do a ridiculous amount of work in order to prove himself a man, as well as copy out, by hand, and entire bible’s worth of teachings. Ezra’s brother, Jonah, is a hard-case, and totally to the letter when it comes to his religion. When he finds out that Ezra and Annabelle have a thing going on, he goes nutso and makes with the biblical craziness, locking his brother in a room and reeking a sort of justice that is just… crazy. What happens after that is Kurtz proving that sometimes things don’t need to be tied up in a Hollywood kind of way. And goddamnit if he doesn’t do it with a kick in the teeth.

Next up comes the über fucked up W4M, that just had me howling with a wicked sense of “did he seriously just go there?” And yes, he went there.

Kurtz has a way of taking a conventional plot and making it all twisty and turny, ending way off in the cornfield and totally away from where you thought it would go. W4M is definitely not just that. It’s the extreme case of that. It’s a point in literature where you say “This writer fellow really does know a good story, chaps” in a fake English accent that your friends immediately make fun of you for because you actually sound like you came from New Delhi. At which point, someone pokes you and asks you to stay on topic, and you continue by saying that this story takes a tried and true serial stalker/killer idea and eats it up with a faba beans and a nice chianti.

Where Kurtz goes oh-so-very-right with this story is with his style and description. The delivery is sometimes stilted, but the description is just so juicy. Gorehounds will appreciate the delectably disgusting pieces offered up for the meal, and will shudder with delight as the main characters gets more than he bargains for. Beyond that, it’s like Kurtz channeled a wee bit of the old W.J. White nastiness, and created a creature I would love to see make an appearance in a longer work (hint, hint, Kurtz). This is a story that is disgusting, wrong, and twisted in every way. All the right ways.

Now Pearls, my dear friends, is another story altogether. It’s disgusting. I had a hard time reading it, have a hard time thinking about it, and seriously want to gag every time it pops into my head. And yeah… pun intended there. It’s gross-out fare, for sure.

I don’t even want to get into this one very deeply, but let’s just say that the main character suddenly gets a weird skin condition and has the unquenchable need to do something very, very gross. Ugh, my god.

Kurtz’s description is in overdrive here, making sure to remind people that horror isn’t just all about ghosts and goblins and monsters galore. Sometimes the horror is visceral, and sometimes it’s the strangest biological oddities that can make us cringe. Yeah, this is body horror, kids. A lá Ed Lee and all the nice folks outta Necro. Hell, I haven’t read something this gross since Night Shade Books’ Excitable Boys – a rarity that should appeal to anyone who enjoys puking in their mouth. Way to go, Kurtz. You owe me several drinks, dude. Yuck.

Roadbeds is a small pulp tale that first showed its wonderful face on Shotgun Honey’s website as a mystery short. I loved it there, and I still love it here. Kurtz is obviously able to jump around in several different genres, and this collection shows that fluidly. This tale, in particular, shows a side of the man that hasn’t really been seen before. His less visceral, and more straightforward style.

Maury and crew are working on a dig when two bruisers show up. Things get all Mob-like, and one thing definitely leads to another. This story is so short and has such a great formulaic ending that I can’t even describe it here. It kicks ass for a little 3-4 pager. You’ll have to check it out for yourself.

Kurtz decides to go a different route with the next story, Earworm. This one sees the man playing in a land of musical torture, making life very difficult for his main character, and pretty much anyone who happens to be infected by this deadly little ditty from hell. Shit, we’ve all been there. Just thankfully not in Kurtz’s world… cause then we’d be dead.

Going from a great premise that plays with the idea of songs kicking your ass, Kurtz waltzes back into a land of pain pain pain, deciding that his story puppets going crazy isn’t enough to satisfy his lust for death, and all probably because he’s had a bad day at work and wants someone to suffer for it. Okay, that last bit may be stretching the truth, but I wouldn’t put it past any horror writer to kill the ever loving hell out of anyone who pisses them off on a Monday. Well… except for John R. Little. He’s just always so happy when I meet him.

Kurtz has all the time in the world to drag you through what you think is going to be a fairly straightforward story, but obviously hasn’t the patience to put up with your constant jabbering for such a long car trip. Once he’s set the tone for this story, it’s GO!GO!GO! with no letting up. This, my good readers, is a Kurtz trademark. He ensnares you, beats you about the head with everything he’s got, and once you think it’s all over…

…he kills you in a story called Krampus. Well, not you… Me.

Yeah. We’ve been here before, haven’t we? Let’s just look through the DT posts here… won’t be a minute…

Doot doo-doo doo dooooooo….

Um… nope. Haven’t told you folks about this one yet, have I?

Okay. Well, here goes.

Krampus is a nice little Christmas tale about a young boy who hasn’t been very good this year. He’s made to spend the holiday with his Oma, and with the help of her friend Nicholas, she intends to show the boy what bad kids get for Christmas. Oh yeah, and she’s going to have me completely destroyed in a gory festival of awesome!

I was ridiculously stoked when I read this one. No joke. I’d checked it out back in December of 2011, when the skies were dark and my life wasn’t filled with so much… who the hell am I kidding. With four million kids running around and an empty bank account, this was pretty much the best thing that happened that whole holiday season, apart from seeing the kid’s faces on Christmas morning. So you can pretty much understand where I’m coming from if my whole review of this story consists of “buy this book… read this book… love this boooooook.”

In fact, you can go snag yourself a copy of Krampus for free if you’re diligent enough and know how to use google like the naughty little thing that it is.

Anyways, what we’re looking at here is a tried and true Kurtz tale, but with a holiday twist. Couple that with a scary, thick accented beast of a woman, a weird old man, a little Canadian jerk (me) and a boy who just doesn’t know when it’s time to throw in the towel and will yourself to die, and you’ve got the best story this side of Scrooged. The gore is a-plenty, the hilarity is as black as my soul, and the pace is set at a break-neck speed and refuses to stop. Until it stops. At which point… shit… I’m dead anyways, so it just stops.

And now that you’ve slogged through 2400+ words of insanity, you might as well go pony up the couple bucks and get a taste of someone who I’m sure is going to kick the genre’s ass in the coming years. Hell, I know he has a story or two out there waiting for publication. I think maybe it’s just a matter of time before Kurtz takes Control of the situation and brings this genre to new heights. And me, I’ll be sitting right here waiting. Bring it on, Kurtz.

C.

Nasty Little Things: Meli’s Thanksgiving Day Gross-Outs!

 We enjoy all the diversity horror fiction has to offer here at Dreadful Tales, from a deliberately paced, atmospheric tale to a balls-to-the-wall action piece. While our bookshelves boast eclectic taste, we do love a nasty bit of fiction. The type of reading that not only pushes you out of your comfort zone, but refuses to acknowledge that such a thing exists. This is why we’ve decided to dedicate a monthly column to the nastiest, most brutally extreme gore in the genre in a new feature called Nasty Little Things. Each month could bring something different, but it will always offer examples of the most transgressive, sick, and twisted shit in horror fiction lit. For the inaugural post, I’m flying solo to bring you a list of the sickest gross-out scenes in horror fiction to celebrate the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. For me, this day is all about food and that euphoric tryptophan-induced coma that sweeps over you right after the first meal. A holiday that celebrates eating ’til a near bursting point is the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be terribly uncomfortable and full of regret. Once I’m past the third or fourth helping I just stand at the fridge nibbling right out of the Tupperware. But this year, not to worry because I’ve got a full-proof plan, and full-proof list, to kill even the strongest appetite. For the first edition of Nasty Little Things, I present “Meli’s Thanksgiving Day Gross-Outs,” my picks for the nastiest gross-out scenes in horror fiction that are sure to keep you away from the leftovers with your dignity in tact. Declaring what’s the sickest, grossest, and most depraved in horror lit can be problematic. A lot depends on the reader’s interpretation of the writer’s words or the reader’s own personal phobias etc., so keep in mind these are the scenes that I found to be the nastiest. You can play along at home by leaving your sickest scene in the comments section. Bon appétit!

Book / Author: Pressure by Jeff Strand
The Scene: Cactus Neck Tumor
Why it’s gross: Among the top picks for worst ways to die, I think choking on your own blood (say, from a stab wound to the throat) is pretty high up there. Not only is gagging on your own blood really gross, but you get just enough oxygen to keep you alive and struggling to breathe for hours. OK, that last part may not be scientifically accurate, but it’s definitely a slow, agonizing, and disgusting death. Worse than that? How ‘bout impalement by cactus in the freakin’ neck! The death of one of Strand’s fated characters in Pressure isn’t directly caused by cactus impalement, but it makes their last moments especially horrific. The thought of feeling thousands of little pinpricks in my neck is enough to make the bile rise in my throat because sometimes pain can be so excruciating it’s vomit-inducing. That’s why Strand’s Cactus Neck Tumor scene had to make my Thanksgiving Day Gross-Out list. Because “a large piece of bloody cactus…embedded in her neck” just makes my stomach turn. Big ole nasty, bloody piece of cactus hanging from her neck like a barnacle from another world. Yuck!
Best Served With: Gazpacho

Book / Author: Endless Night by Richard Laymon
The Scene: Pan-fried Finger Foods
Why it’s gross: Laymon has all kinds of nasty bits to choose from, but I have a particular aversion to cannibals. People eating people, people wearing people, it all gives me the creeps and seriously kills my appetite. To this day, I can’t forget what I was eating and drinking the first time I saw The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – Doritos with water! In this particular scene from Endless Night, we find one very disturbed character frying up faces and fingers in the skillet like a macabre breakfast only a sicko can appreciate! He even compares the fingers and thumbs to “stubby little sausages.” As if that wasn’t bad enough he continues to muse, “They were browning up nicely except for the nails, which had curled oddly.” Finally, without any regard for the weak-stomached readers, Laymon has this psycho eat a finger tip! Taken out of context, it may not sound so bad, but it was enough to keep me away from the franks for a while. That little detail about the fingernails helps make this scene particularly cringe-worthy.
Best Served With: Fried bologna sandwiches

Book / Author: The Strain by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan
The Scene: An Intimate Moment with Worms
Why it’s gross: There’s plenty in The Strain to challenge the reader’s gag reflex. These vampires are not the romantic and mysterious figures that daintily nibble your neck, sipping your blood while caressing your bosom. They’re nasty, violent, and ugly. Their curse spreads like a virus, literally. When you try to damage these vile creatures, their wounds secrete a milky white substance writhing with infectious worms. In one of the most unsettling scenes a woman finds herself being invaded by these creatures through every orifice of her body, and I mean every orifice. “There was then a most unnerving wriggling sensation around her crotch – and then a sudden, twisting discomfort in her rectum.” Being violated by capillary worms is a top tier kind of nastiness. Waves of nausea run through my body just thinking of it.
Best Served With: Rice Vermicelli

Book / Author: The Midnight Meat Train by Clive Barker
The Scene: Out with his tongue!
Why it’s gross: Barker is a master of brilliantly twisted worlds and boundary-pushing prose. The Midnight Meat Train is an apt example of his complex storytelling, but also his proclivity for pushing the limits of perversion. Blood flows freely and the innocent are slain with impunity in this story, but it’s the cannibals that come back to haunt me. At the climax of this gruesome tale, one man finds himself up against a great evil, an evil that wants to silence him forever. “Suddenly his tongue was seized tight and twisted on the root… Blood was in his throat, he heard his flesh tearing, and agonies convulsed him.” Tongues being cut, ripped out, or violated in any manner gets my stomach in tumbles, but what happens next tops that. This malevolent force “stuffed the tongue into his own mouth, chewing on it with evident satisfaction.” The texture of a tongue, all slimy and rough, is more repulsive to me than any other body part. Cooked well it might be an appetizing little dish, but raw and right out of a living man’s mouth!? No way.
Best Served With: Blood sausage

Book / Author: Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
The Scene: The Unstoppable Libido of A Monster
Why it’s gross: Lindqvist is unabashed at representing a truly violent and brutal world full of human monsters. This is a beautiful, sometimes whimsical, tale of a charming friendship amidst a cruel and terrible world with plenty of scenes to make you gasp, wince, and gag. But probably the most disturbing and gut-wrenching is the self-inflicted acid bath one character takes in an effort to obscure his identity. His face is completely disfigured. Melted pieces of flesh hang from bone “as if the head had been replaced by a mass of freshly killed and butchered eels.” His mouth is melted shut, and one eye is melted down onto his cheek. It’s not just his horribly disfigured form that is so grotesque. Driven by a healthy dose of vampire venom and a sexual obsession, we’re treated to this mutilated man enjoying a rather enthusiastic five-knuckle shuffle! His “hand pulled the foreskin aggressively up and back, up and back, and the head of his penis appeared and disappeared, appeared and disappeared like a jack-in-the-box while he uttered a sound of pleasure or suffering.” That ain’t like no jack-in-the-box I ever had as a kid! That’s just plain sick!
Best Served With: Open-faced tuna melt sandwich

Book / Author: Slither by Edward Lee
The Scene: Parasitic Semen
Why it’s gross: No gross-out list could be complete without the maestro of morbid, Edward Lee. He knows how to warp minds and upset stomachs. When I think of gross, Slither is one of the first books that comes to mind. Plenty of nastiness in this book to chose from, but one scene stands out – the parasitic semen! First, a brief explanation, the island in which this sci-fi horror mash-up is set is overrun by worms. There are large ones, chitin-penetrating ones (that means they can penetrate shells), and even small parasitic ones, like those that star in this grossest of gross scenes. A nice gentlemen ejaculates in an equally nice lady’s mouth upon which she immediately spits it out due to the disgusting taste. But this isn’t because it’s her first time and the taste of splooge is foreign to her. It’s because it really tastes awful. And there’s no wonder why because “roiling amid his spat-out semen were hundreds of tiny yellow beads, smaller versions of the ones he’d plucked off his body the other night.” Now that is seriously sick!
Best Served With: Egg drop soup

So, those are my favorite gross-outs, what’s yours?

Lucifer’s Lottery by Edward Lee

Want to take a no-strings-attached visitor’s tour of the underworld without all the fuss and muss of the painful agony and burning? What if your personal tour guide was horror fiction master H.P. Lovercraft? In Edward Lee’s bizarre tale, Lucifer’s Lottery, you get an up close and personal look into the flaming Abyss, but it isn’t the great empty expanse of fire and brimstone you may have come to expect. This is also not Lee’s first foray into Hell. He first introduced readers to his version of the Inferno, a city dubbed Mephistopolis, via lonely goth girl Cassie in City Inferno, originally published by Cemetery Dance in 2001, and again in House Infernal. For Lucifer’s Lottery Lee takes us back to Mephistopolis to accompany would-be priest Hudson on a grand tour of the city of pain and suffering as Satan attempts to make him an offer that may be too good to refuse.

Every 666 years one man or woman wins the Senary, a lottery where Lucifer chooses one of God’s devout followers at random. The winner is tempted to give up all prospects of eternity in Heaven for an afterlife in Hell instead. Of course, the Morning Star will make it well worth the winner’s while should they accept his offer. So, what does Lucifer get out of this deal, you ask? Simply, the satisfaction of knowing he took one of God’s most devout souls for his own. The next 666 year cycle is here and just one month from entering seminary Hudson is chosen for the Senary. Howard Phillips Lovecraft, known as just Howard to us for the length of this story, is his ever-descriptive and poetic tour guide to Mephistopolis as he tries to convince Hudson to take this once in a lifetime opportunity. With the prospect of fulfilling his most sinful desires for an eternity in Hell, Hudson struggles with his commitment to God.

Lucifer’s Lottery has all the signatures of a Lee novel – hyper-sexualized scenes, stomach-turning filth and viscera. In the context of the story and Lee’s supernatural Hell-world he is able to create the most unspeakable horrors, but it’s not all eye-candy. Pulling the readers through this stench-filled nightmare of tortured human damned, monsters, and hybrids is the excitement of wondering what will happen next and what you will see next. And the bizarre sights are delightfully disgusting and morbid! “Each District, Prefect, or Zone features its own decorative motif.” There is a district made of skin and constructions held together by bones and guts. We’re introduced to a bar featuring Mammiferons, breasts that function as taps dispensing milk for its upscale patronage. Another establishment we visit offers “Hell’s greatest delicacies,” newborn Demon fetuses crushed like grapes to make Satan’s own wicked wine. And that hardly scratches the surface of the vile things occupying Lee’s Mephistopolis.

Lee goes all out in Lucifer’s Lottery. He doesn’t simply cross the line into the extreme; he won’t even acknowledge there ever was such a line, so for readers seeking the perverse and weird in excess Lee hits all the right notes. At the same time, there is a good sense of humor to this book giving us the chance to have a laugh or two in the face of evil. Lee elicits amusement married with disgust and sometimes even eroticism with revulsion. He is a master of creating mixed emotions in his readers. It’s hard not to be charmed by Lee when he not only shocks us with wild sights, but has some comedic relief as well. We first arrive to Mephistopolis with a newly deceased human damned only to have “a black bat with a six-foot wingspan and a vaguely human face” drop a deuce on his head! While that opening let’s us know we can have a good time with this book it doesn’t take away from the hideousness of Lee’s Hell. It’s sick, depraved, hysterical, and sometimes even titillating. Lee manages to make you feel a little weird about the latter. You may find yourself turned on by a sexy Golemess whose “grapefruit-sized breasts…offer nipples distending like overlarge Hershey’s Kisses;” a possessed Deaconess who lubes herself with olive oil to temp Hudson; and Lycanymphs, “Erotopathic female werewolves,” who dispense milk from a wall of boobs!

The horrors are inexplicably grotesque and the pacing break-neck, but none of this would be quite as successful if the characters weren’t interesting. None of them are particularly likable save for the protagonist Hudson, but they each have their own allure and don’t fail to entertain. The bad guys are absolutely despicable, the sinful are the worst of the worst and they have some hilarious dialogue. Like when a bum laments his choices for sustenance in difficult times – “It sucks when ya have to eat your own nut just for the calories, ya know? You ever do that?” No, no I haven’t. We have Howard narrating the tour of the city making the atrocious place almost sound beautiful in his fluid prose. While I found Hudson sympathetic, I was especially hopeful for the down-on-his luck, suicidal paraplegic Gerold. Unfortunately, this is a tale centered on Lucifer and the unlucky humans that become part of his game, so I wouldn’t get too attached if I were you.

Lucifer’s Lottery had me gasping in shock, squirming in discomfort, and laughing aloud at the insanity of the world Lee created. It’s non-stop thrilling and will keep surprising the reader up to the last page. But, be warned! Lucifer’s Lottery should bear with the same warning as the gates of Hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

-Meli

Slither by Edward Lee

As summer comes to a close, the kids go back to school and my mornings become haunted by the cold frost of oncoming fall, I reflect on one of my most unforgettable beach reads, Edward Lee’s Slither. I know Lee fanatics who gorge themselves on this author’s work for months on end with no break. Despite being a household name in horror fiction fan circles his books just never made it into my to-read pile, until recently. When a fellow horror fiend offered up a Necro Publications hardcover edition (2006) of Slither for sale, I took a chance. The limited edition price tag was well worth the cash! Killer worms may not sound scary, but Lee takes these innocuous, slimy little trichinae and makes them truly gruesome. Trichinae is a new word I learned from reading this book. This book actually makes you smarter! Army coverups, enthusiastic scientists geeking out on polychaetes (another word I learned), oversized creatures threatening horny coeds, and more erect nipples than you can shake a bikini strap at, all populate Slither’s small island of Pritchard’s Key. Fun and terror in the sun make the best combo for summer horror flicks and, as Lee proves, equally stellar summer reads!

The trichinosis worm is one of nature’s most revolting parasites. Certain types of this tiny worm alter a host’s DNA by injecting a virus which mutates the reproductive system. This forces the host to bear the worm’s young. Typically these worms are never longer than a few millimeters. But guess what? Now there’s a subspecies that’s thirty feet long…

When Nora and her team arrive at the island, she expects a routine zoological excursion…but it doesn’t take her long to realize they’re not alone. Are her lurid sexual dreams making her paranoid…or is she being watched? The dead bodies they find are bad enough, but then her own team members begin to disappear, and when they return, they’ve…changed. Indeed, there are other people on the island…along with something else far worse.

Slither is unabashedly a good ole 80s horror romp. It reads like one of those flicks you would catch late on a Saturday night (remember Gilbert Gottfried’s “Up All Night!?”). The type that had plenty of gross-outs, jump scares, and boobies! I remember catching these slightly perverted, somewhat guilty indulgences after the midnight hour and turning the sound way down so my grandma wouldn’t know what I was watching. Once, I could hear that she was watching the same movie in the other room! The rotten apple certainly doesn’t fall far from the tree. Slither took me right back to that golden era of horror for children of the 80s when sleaze and cheese reigned supreme.

Lee is clever in his character development. While each person has the stereotypical qualities typical of a B-movie horror cast, they are still engaging and highly entertaining. Coupled with the fact that the dialogue is in your head, the story becomes more plausible than any low budget creature feature you’ll catch on late night TV. With no budget constraints holding him back either, Lee is able to take his FX to the max. You don’t have to worry about cardboard actors with terrible delivery or boom mics showing up in an important action shot. With just a little imagination, Lee’s low-budget inspired yarn becomes big budget horror with a rotten-tongue-in-cheek sensibility.

For the cast we have the archetypical busty babes with meathead frat boys in tow, cold-as-ice military personnel, a few drug addled lame brains looking to make a quick buck, and the hot, sexually repressed nerd Nora. Nora and her assistant Loren, accompanied by hotshot photog Annabelle and Army guide Trent, are at Pritchard’s Key to observe Scarlet Bristleworms. What they don’t know is these normally harmless creatures are feeding on humans. But the human vessel doesn’t die, it becomes an infested puppet controlled by freakin’ worms! Think Clint Howard in Ticks (1993). “I’M INFESTED!

Pritchard’s Key becomes a pulsating nest of gigantic parasitic worms that seem to multiply exponentially with every minute creating some of the sickest gross-outs and gag-inducing scenes I’ve ever read. The image of a “corpse and dead worms…suspended in that liquefaction: a congealed mass of organic rot” is not one I’ll soon forget. Or the image of worms wriggling around in cum, which was spit out of an unfortunate female’s mouth! This is the kind of book you don’t want to read on a full stomach. Like swimming, it’s best to wait at least a half hour after eating before you jump back in!

Even though Slither is inspired by B-movie horror, it’s not predictable. Lee throws in a curve ball toward the end to shock his readers. You’re never going to guess what is really going on in Pritchard’s Key. You might learn some fancy new scientific lingo too, like “chitin-penetrating” or “motile ovum.” And perhaps you’ll be better than me at telling the difference between an annelid and a trichina. This will definitely be the most fun you will have learning about worms!

If you only have enough time for one more beach read before summer is officially over and the vacay time runs out, read Edward Lee’s Slither. I guarantee you will never look at worms the same way again.

Check out Edward Lee online at edwardleeonline.com and join his Facebook group.