Meat is one of the few novels, such as J. Robert King’s Angel of Death, that has not only hooked me on a specfic author after only one book, but which has also amazed, revolted and enthralled me. I’ve got Joseph’s Garbage Man, too, and will be getting into it as soon as I’ve finished two other books, a Fantasy and a SF novel.
The first thing that struck me about Meat is that in the opening passages I already felt uncomfortable, as if something ugly and fragrant and unlike-us was watching me and I was aware of its regard but not where it was – the opening passages introduce the main protagonist of the tale, but in a manner that makes you wonder just what the hell is wrong with him, where he lives, and why he’s doing what he’s doing when you meet him.
From there, the book becomes sinisterly relentless – the world in which he lives, a town in the middle of nowhere and nothing, grows with hints of what people believe, how they live and work, and while this world grows and the various characters are introduced, Joseph is slowly planting the seeds of a repulsive, incredibly shocking, and deeply affecting reveal. It’s at this point that I think many readers, if they have thought of putting down the book, will put the book down and stop reading and try and forget that they ever picked up the book.
In speaking to friends and customers about Meat, I used this scenario to describe it: imagine you’re on the road, driving, to work or wherever, and the road is busy; traffic starts to slowy back up and before long you’re inching along, fuming because of the heat and the fact that your plans have got to wait; as you inch along, you start seeing the evidence of an accident – a tyre lying on its side, rubber-stripes on the tar where the driver tried to stop, and then pieces of shattered glass here and there, splashes of what is probably oil – and as the evidence builds you can’t help thinking that this was a terrible accicdent. And as you approach the wrecked hulk of the car, you don’t want to look, because you know you’re either going to see the state of the car and your imagination will fill in the blanks or you’ll see the body, or bodies, or pieces of bodies, and even though you don’t want to look, as you reach the wreck, you do…
The subject matter of Meat punches hard, relentlessly and without mercy; Joseph doesn’t spare you. But he doesn’t only freak you out and unsettle you – the characters that populate the town are real and vibrant -sometimes sickeningly so- and Joseph shows that he has a real eye for the kind of personal dialogue and interactions that help you slip behind the eyes of the characters, making it so that understanding them and their point of view is effortless. Some of the characters I wanted to beat to death because they revolted me, others I was intensely curious about, wondering if they were, in fact, human, and still others I sympathized with even though what they were doing would spell trouble for everyone and everything later on. Like Stephen King, Joseph has an amazing ability to put the every-day man into srange, incredible and insane situations without forgetting the fact that he’s writing about people and telling their story.
Meat is an intensely unsettling book – it really shocked me and made me think, and Joseph’s afterword was perfectly fitting; this won’t be a book that will make you feel good, although you might crack a smile in some instances – this is the kind of book that will make you smile in a malicious way as you enjoy the fates of the some of the characters. And it’s also one of the most important reasons why this is such a damned good book – it doesn’t pull any punches, it explores the blurred line between depravity and getting used to something, between good and evil, and in a brutal, feverish and yet I-can’t-stop-reading manner.
Josepf D’Lacey is the kind of writer that might just make you retch and lose sleep, but he’s also the kind of storyteller that tells the stories you don’t want to, but need to, hear.
Read this book!
10 / 10
To order your copies of Meat, click here for Amazon UK, here for Amazon US, and here if you’re in South Africa (you can order the book in-store through Ingrams at any Exclusive Books or place your order online). To get more info about Joseph and his work, click here.
Until next time,