- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 920 KB
- Print Length: 325 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 098478764X
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publisher: Smart Rhino Publications; 1 edition (6 Feb. 2013)
- Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00BCNJ4FG
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- Word Wise: Enabled
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #423,526 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Zippered Flesh 2: More Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad Kindle Edition
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Today's hard-core horror fans, by and large, have embraced the "Slasher" Flicks that many of us so loathed and despised back in the day. Sure, there were a couple of exceptions like Halloween and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre that were pretty good, but formulaic stuff like Friday the 13th, the Saint Vitus Dance Murders and the Saint Swithen's Day Massacre and their ilk produced waves of nausea in cats like me who were into "the Shining." It wasn't just the gore. It was the recurrent themes - not intentionally placed there, I wager, but repeated by rote by formulaic story tellers imitating the last successful model: "Have Sex and Die," "Only the strong survive," "If a girl gets uppity and starts doing things on her own, well she'll get what's coming to her." You know the drill. Shortly after the arrival of Barker - who is an enormously talented writer and story teller, don't get me wrong - the "Splatterpunk" crew showed up and announced that there were no boundaries. Twilight Zone Magazine folded, Stephen King had an accident and (for awhile) lost his groove, and the horror market shrank to an insignificant corner of the market frequented only by the most bloody faithful.
Subjectively, although again, I appreciate the talent of individual writers within the movement, I didn't like "Splatterpunk." I've never appreciated violence and gore as an end in itself, and so Clive and the crew weren't always my (body) bag. I didn't like the uniformly grim vision of the world offered by a total immersion into a character's debauchery. I understand that bad things happen to people, things they have no control over, but having "old school" ideas on the purpose of drama and literature, I felt that a story should be ABOUT something -- and not just a dumb show parade of scares, sex and "suspense." Sometimes the protagonist of the story should be offered a choice so the story doesn't necessarily HAVE to go down the dark path to the character's eventual destruction. That way the story means something. The choice should be there, whether the main character sees it or not, chooses it or not, is another issue. Finally, in the late `80s and the early `90s, I grew bored reading about deviants and sensualists and like a lot of people, stopped reading horror.
But the world changes. A new generation has come along, many of them rabidly, obsessively, against any kind of "message" in the medium who look at literature and film as a kind of drug. They want their fix of fast paced gore and are not interested in some old "hippie" telling them what it all means. ("I think they get all high minded and critical just so we ordinary people can't enjoy it," someone said of a recent documentary on Stephen King.) Mix some of these rabid preconceptions about the purpose of literature with the changes in the industry and you have a REAL mess. There are now thousands of people out in the independent frontier writing horror fiction. Some of it is certainly, willfully, obsessively, "life has no meaning and we are all doomed and damned," dark posturing. Reading it is like listening to post heavy metal groups like "Pantera. No room for characterization or profound intellectual choices there. Just four beats per measure, oh this is dark and nasty and now let's move onto the next guitar solo.
Actually, those guitar solos were pretty good. RIP,Dimebag.
What we have here, is a collection of mostly independent writers tapping into the darkside, all writing on the Barkeresque theme of "body enhancements gone bad", surgically, chemically, whatever. It's also the second of the series, which isn't a promising start for the newcomer. One initially assumes that all of the good stuff was used up in the first anthology and what we're stuck with here are bloody, splatter happy, intellectually wonting remainders.
Wrong, wrong, dead wrong, all wrong, and let's start again.
"Zippered Flesh 2" turns out to be a jaw-droppingly fine collection of stories. I won't tell you that everyone is a masterpiece. I won't tell you there aren't a couple of predictable clinkers and some that go for the gore and debauchery as an end itself. What I will tell you is that overall the writing is of a very high caliber. A glance through the author information at the end of the book reveals a cadre of extremely talented, experienced people. Editor Weldon Burge has done a remarkable job of finding a variety of approaches to what could have been an exercise in blood thirsty tedium.
"Hunger Artist" by Lisa Monetti - a stand out story about turn of the century, medical quackery, political influence and its ramifications in the present day. This one is disturbing because those particular human monsters were out there, for real, in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
"Piper at the Gates" by W.E. Benton, is a thoroughly modern and gruesome variation on the Lovecraftian "glimpse of another, terrifying dimension" theme. It's gory and "in your face," but the characterizations are effective. I would suggest that this is the strongest story in the collection, but comparisons are irrelevant and wrong-headed. This isn't a beauty pageant where everyone has to wear the same swimsuit.
"Underneath." By Kealan Patrick Burke is a disturbing story of high school romance gone wrong. I'm not quite sure the twist at the end was properly foreshadowed, but that's a minor quibble. The horror works on a deep, psychological level because your preconceptions are challenged, as they should be. This one will leave you thinking about it and if you can relate to the nerdy, lonely and emasculated protagonist, it will leave you depressed because of the underlying honesty of the character's motivations. No Hollywood gloss on the tales in this book. No sir, no ma'am.
"Taut" Shaun Meeks offers a nasty piece of work that successfully blends the past and present tense narrative styles much less confusingly than many others who have tried the gambit. In this particular case the main character has made her choice about life styles sometime in the past and now, even if undeservedly, it catches up with her. (My what a pickle an anxious boyfriend can talk you into!) Chilling and memorable.
"The Sun Snake" by Christine Morgan is Historical Horror, which I found fascinating for its well-researched background. I probably shouldn't have liked it as much as I did because the central flaw of the story is pretty obvious. It's what Howard Hawks said about his movie about ancient Egypt, "The Land of the Pharaohs." "Nobody really knows how the ancient Egyptians talked. We don't know who they really were." Same with ancient, South American civilizations, but the story fits the overall theme of the collection, has some gruesome moments and leaves you thinking. Thumbs up and kudos for giving a difficult subject the old college try.
"The Perfect Size" by AP. Sessler; "Knowledge" by Kate Monroe; "We're All Mad Here" by E.A. Black; "Seeds" by L.L. Soar and "Prosthetics" by Daniel I Russell - a tale that somehow reminds me Arch Obler's great, old radio program of shockers "Lights Out," - are all good reading. There's more. "Perfection" by Doug Blaneslee has a wacky, 1930's pulp fiction adventure feel to it. Actually, I kind of liked it and wouldn't mind reading more. I just didn't know what it was doing in a horror anthology. (Maybe "Masked Vigilante Monthly" passed on it? You never know.)
A couple stories go on way too long (like this review,) as if they were made up on the spot, and there were a couple that just didn't appeal to me for whatever reason. There's a reworking, or "slightly different take" on "Pet Semetary," a possible explanation for the "Zombie Apocalypse," and "Rapture," about a fading horror movie star and his writer who descend into surrealistic, Clive Barker style depravity. "Rapture" is actually pretty good for what it is.
Which brings us, finally, to "Affair of the Jade Dragon." By Rick Hudson.
Other than an installment of abandoned, novel/blog "The Velvet Marauder," by Dave Campbell, the loathed (but rather likeable) film "Van Helsing," and the film version of "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," I don't have any experience with Steampunk. I do not know what the strictures of the form entail other than the obvious, physical sense of style. Frankly, I'm starting to stay away from hip trends, especially anything with "punk" in it.
I believe that "Affair of the Jade Dragon" is a current, horrific leaning, example of Steampunk. It's an alternate reality rendering of a famous literary hero's demise. As well written as it is, as clever as it is in it's variations and use of Steampunk conventions, "The Affair of the Jade Dragon" was essentially about the demise of a hero. The good guys lose. The bad guys win and the overall effect is not unlike the "super heroine demise" fad infesting porno sites a while ago. (I assume that fad passed. I hope it has. I really don't keep up with these things.) The formula is the same. The hero/heroine, blinded by his/her own arrogance stumbles into something he/she can't handle and dies a slow, humiliating death.) Watching the main character thrash about helplessly provides the entertainment. To me it's like watching a snuff film, or rooting for the serial killer in "Silence of the Lambs." No thanks. There ARE limits.
I thought Gahan Wilson handled the theme much more effectively back in 1967 with "The Power of the Mandarin," but of course, that story didn't have the cool Steampunk trappings and Wilson openly mocked himself for taking the story where it went. Although Wilson creates a bit of a Fu Manchu pastiche as the basis of his story, he also acknowledges Sax Rhomer's world as a separate reality. There are similarities and the effect is the same as "Affair of the Jade Dragon," but Rhomer's characters aren't (probably unintentionally) turned into a death porno experience. "The Power of the Mandarin" ends with a laugh - a sick laugh, but a laugh.
On a primal, emotional level, I found "Affair of the Jade Dragon" repugnant.
Well, a good story - or anthology of stories - especially in the horror genre, isn't about affirmation, telling you what you want to hear about right and wrong, good and evil. A good horror story comes up on you from behind, drags you off to an abandoned cellar and forces you to re-evaluate what you think you know. In this respect, "Affair of the Jade Dragon" - like the entire Zippered Flesh 2 Anthology - meets the criteria brilliantly.
So, in spite of a few caveats about individual stories, - and maybe even because of them - I strongly recommend this anthology, especially if you want a good, overall primer of what's happening in the horror field TODAY. "Zippered Flesh 2" provides you with 22 tales of stimulating and challenging if "wet and messy" reading.
This is definitely not a collection for the faint of heart! But the talent in this book is very impressive. I have to admit that I have never heard of many of these authors, but I definitely want to check out more of their work. Each author brings a unique perspective to the subject matter, making this collection a must-have for fans of horror and bizarre tales.
And `unique' is an excellent way to describe this book. The stories in ZIPPERED FLESH 2 are not traditional by any means; these are true tales of the original. From piercings to amputations, these stories will definitely stick out in your mind long after you have finished them.
One of my favorite stories in the book is "The Sun-snake" by Christine Morgan. In this tale, an ancient civilization "honors" the winner of a competition by transforming him into the Sun-snake, their embodied god. This is achieved by several gruesome surgeries that bind his legs together. I particularly like this story because of the vivid imagery involved. Morgan does an amazing job of conveying the scene and the images from this one will haunt me for a long time.
ZIPPERED FLESH 2 is a big win for me and is a book that definitely needs to be on your horror bookshelf. It is available now, so give it a look.