2.15.2010

Triage

Triage was an interesting reading experience. Three authors, known for their ability to bring the visceral side of horror fiction, were tasked with writing on a simple prompt: someone walks into a place of business and begins shooting.

Unfortunately, that's a pretty commonplace event in contemporary life (at least the 24-hour news cycle makes it seem that way).

I've enjoyed these authors individually, and I've put down others among their works. All three have been hit or miss for me, as I definitely prefer quiet or mundane horror (or psychological, for that matter). But I enjoyed Madman Stan and Other Stories and Darkness Tell Us by Laymon; I enjoyed Off Season and The Girl Next Door okay (I was told any horror writer with a sense of perspective simply had to read these two). Edward Lee's "Mr. Torso" was a riveting read, albeit a gross-out of the first order.

So I went in hopeful, and these writers more than delivered.

The trio of tales opens with Laymon's "Triage," a story that opens with a shotgunning and then ups the ante from there. This is one bloody tale. The prose is crisp, the tension high, the sex in your face--all Laymon staples, and done with his trademark glee here. Two of these stories end on extremely down notes, and this is one of them. Not for the faint of heart.

Lee's "In the Year of Our Lord: 2022" was my favorite story in the bunch. A space opera that operates on a number of subtle political and religious levels, this story is a fascinating descent into the search for religious meaning. The riddle at the story's center kept me guessing the whole way and Lee, who has a very obvious affection for Dick Laymon, pays homage to the writer while building on the opening narrative. Yeah, they use a lot of the same plot points early on. It's not a distraction though, as Lee's mystery takes off after about the tenth page. This one plays with encoded messages, political commentary and sex. Oh yeah, there's a lot of that. In parts, this story borders on erotica, though it never detracts from the heart of the narrative. And the end? Well, the end is just a great twist. Can't mention anything remotely related to it without spoiling it for the rest of you.

Ketchum's "Sheep Meadow Story" is the strongest in terms of craft. He is an excellent writer--more of a wordsmith than his predecessors in this collection. Stroup is a great character, an interesting combination of personal angst and ambition, who walks through his days trying to keep himself from growling. The third act is rich--literally--for our hero, who comes out golden.

I really enjoyed this collection. I recommend, particularly for fans of splatterpunk or more...well, overt horror.

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