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Customer Review

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Meat is Supreme, 29 July 2008
This review is from: Meat (Paperback)
***This review contains mild plot SPOILERS***

First, some context. My own strange relationship with MEAT (the substance and the book) really began 18 years ago, when i decided to become a vegetarian after seeing one-too-many secretly-filmed slaughterhouse videos (that's, um, ONE then). The recurring nightmares that followed were, i'm still sure, my body telling me it didn't want dead animal flesh inside it any more. First i gave up red meat. A week later i had my last few mouthfuls of chicken. Two weeks after that, no more fish either, and no looking back. I've never preached to anyone not to eat meat, have prepared and cooked meat for friends, and (much as i've despaired over people's choices of battery meat and unquestioning attitude towards fast food, especially fried chicken) i have maintained an aesthetic appreciation of dead flesh - largely informed by my love of the horror genre of course.

18 years later and i find myself reading MEAT by Joseph D'Lacey. It is a real page turner, and a real stomach churner. Comes as no surprise to read in the afterword that D'Lacey viewed slaughterhouse footage during his research for the book, and his vivid descriptions of the abattoir and the helpless animals processed therein conjured awful memories of some of the sights that turned me veggie in the first place. Perhaps most harrowing of all is the section about veal calves - I was so shaken by D'Lacey's masterful evocation of the veal calves' plight and process that I had to put the book the book down for a while. The tone in this section allowed a rush of emotion to blast through, contrasting with the cool surgical narrative voice used elsewhere to great, but greatly different, effect.

So why not give MEAT a 5 star rating rather than 4? The only real let-down for me was the unsatisfying way in which Shanti's wife's fate was handled. I just didn't find her lack of fight - or his near non-existent level of interest in what happened to her after several years of married life, however fractured - believable. A damn shame, as I found everything else in the book (however far-fetched) believable because of the writing. Elsewhere in the book we find female characters who are masochistic clergy, maniac whores or young tomboys. Even in MEAT's equivalent of a feudal mediaeval society, I'm pretty sure there'd be more than a few strong, principled women. Around the halfway point in the book I found myself wishing women were also employed at MMP in D'Lacey's world. This added dimension could have made for some heightened drama - especially in the sections dealing with the treatment of the dairy herd and the veal calves.

At some point, the focus of this excellent first novel shifts from the horror, becoming something of a sci-fi/fantasy epic, with a massive Biblical struggle that brings to mind the Fremen revolution in Frank Herbert's classic DUNE. The Fat Baron in MEAT is strikingly drawn in the form of meat magnate Magnus, whose bestial sexual proclivities and ultra-violence make him an unforgettable villain. The heroics in this piece are left to "Ice Pick" Shanti and the prophet-like John Collins - and I suspect it's no accident that the latter's initials are "J.C." No surprise either that MEAT may be turned into a film - it is one hell of a book, and in the right hands would make for a truly disturbing movie.

A footnote: in January of this year I started eating fish again after 18 years. Just to be sure I could stomach it I gutted some myself before chopping off their heads, then cooked and ate them. After all that time, I had blood on my hands once again. I guess it never really ever washes off, does it?
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Initial post: 3 Nov 2013 02:15:11 GMT
S. Spence says:
Good review. I just want to say though that here in the UK we no longer raise veal in crates, thank God. There is a movement to introduce what is called rose veal-it is still quite young at slaughter, but is raised in barns with freedom to walk around and see daylight. I was vegetarian for a short while many years ago, but I found once I allowed my conscience to itch over meat it starting itching over eggs and dairy which are heavily farmed. As I can't eat much veg for health reasons I was in danger of living on air...
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