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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Slither by Edward Lee (Paperback Review)

Messed up, perverse, and over-the-top, Slither is a b-grade horror novel that opens with an interesting premise, almost ruins it by fumbling too many plot threads, and ultimately redeems itself with a polarizing twist in the final fifty pages. Edward Lee definitely has a flair for the macabre, not to mention a trashy, free-flowing style, that makes this a compelling, if uneven, read.

The story starts with four separate groups of people stranded on a deserted, nearly inaccessible island. Yeah, that's a lot of strangers on a deserted island. While a few of the characters do remark upon the situation, that doesn't save the story's roots from being so awkwardly mired in coincidence. Party number one is your typical slasher flick fodder - rich, horny teens looking for a secluded sexual hideout. Party number two is your typical sci-fi thriller fodder - overly geeky scientists, an over-sexed bimbo/bitch photographer, and a by-the-book army grunt. Party number three is your typical b-movie trash fodder - a pair of petty criminal brothers and the skanky whore with whom they so eagerly trade favours. It's only party number four that really distinguishes the story, but we don't find out just how a-typical they are until those aforementioned final fifty pages.

I won't even try to decipher the barrage of scientific nonsense being bandied about here, but I will say it sounds authentic and well-researched. I learned far more about worms and parasites than I ever wanted to know, and you can bet your ass I'll be well-armed with bug-spray and insect-repellent bracelets next time I decide to venture deep into the woods. That's a bit of an in-joke, since it's ridiculous how well they manage to protect party number two but I guess somebody has to have a hope of escape for the story to work.

As for the worms, they are damned creepy. Imagine your worst, darkest, most perverted fears about slender, creeping, malevolent creatures and amp that up to the max. This is tentacle-porn at its most sadistic, stripped of the psuedo-eroticism and reduced to its most primal, albeit sexual, elements. Cover your mouth, pinch your nose, and clench those butt-cheeks tight because the tiniest little twinge or tickle will have you paranoid by the end. Cliches and coincidences aside, Lee knows how to get under your skin.

While the book would have worked better with about a hundred-or-so pages cut out, there's enough here to keep you reading, even through the dry parts. As for that polarizing twist I mentioned? It's either the cheapest cop-out ever slipped into a story, a means of getting beyond the mental roadblock of one too many scientific impossibilities, or the most inspired bit of narrative invention, a development so bizarre that it actually works. For me, it was the latter, ultimately redeeming a story with which I was starting to lose patience.

Definitely a guilty pleasure, this was a ton of fun. Its flaws aside, Slither is a wild ride, full of gross-out horror, eye-rolling sex, brutal violence, and . . . oh, yeah, gross-out sex. Not recommended for weak hearts (or weak stomachs), but perfect for those who love the kind of b-movie drive-in horror flicks they simply don't make anymore.

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