Edward Lee's Slither


There are books you read for enlightenment, books you read for pleasure, and books you read for guilty pleasure. When it comes to the latter, Leisure Fiction and Baen Press seems to publish the definitive deal for me (as far as new material is concerned). The latter, at least the ones I read, are of the old-school sci-fi gambit and military sci-fi. Books with big men and big guns and historical battles re-enacted with laser beams. The former, again dealing specifically with the ones I read, are all about cheap-thrills horror and strange violent sex. The violent sex I can usually deal without, but there is nothing quite like a horror novel that has obviously been raised on a steady diet of the horror movies of the past few decades, except with the added bonuses that the written word can work in. Slither is one of these sorts of books.

I have no idea how much the movie of the same name come into play in the writing. There are intersecting themes, most definitely. Worms that infect people. A certain degree of heightened libido. But Slither (the movie) comes out of "invasion" horror of the 1970's, and is as much a good natured romp in a small town as a horror movie. Slithers (the book) comes out of a different tradition, a gory "biological" story with strange sea "ticks" on nipples and labias, long pink worms crawling into vaginas, a couple of rapes and more than one scene of worms being excreted in very unpleasant ways. While the visual accompaniment to this degree rarely makes it into horror movies (some Italian horror films, maybe, and a few American horror films hint at it), Edward Lee is one of those horror writers that know that lines can be crossed much more easily and generally more effectively in horror writing.

Overall the characters are likable enough, but (and this is my first Lee book, so I don't know if this is a pattern with him or not) the women characters seem a tad too confrontational with each other and serve more as excuses to say "turgid nipples" once every couple of chapters. All the women here are sexpots, sexpots with implants, sexpot rape victims, or scrawny geek women who get angry at sexpots. The men, too, tend to stick to tried and true stereotypes, just not so aggressively. Horror tends to require characters that you sort of want to survive but Lee delights, instead, with characters you kind of root to get eaten, and that is most of the fun of this book. That, and knowing that a good long and hot shower is waiting for you after you get done reading it...

You definitely don't want them things sitting in your buttcrack or something.

Bad taste in the back of your mouth aside, the book is 75% enjoyable. There is the addition of a couple of redneck criminals that only barely add anything except for a cheap excuse for a rape scene and some pretty blatant "for funsies" sexism. There are a few lines, especially toward the end, where the narrator's voice drops into some weird conversationalism. Things you might hear a buddy say if you were watching this as a movie, almost like things that Lee couldn't not just blatantly say though the novel would have been better without them (or with them brought up more in the context of the story itself). The "cause of it all" was fun, but I bet its going to grate on some of your nerves, and the final scene is predictable enough as to be nearly redundant in the actual spelling out of everything.

You are going to have to like sex and gore to like this book, and you better like your horror "wet". But, if you are in the mood for a late night Saturday pleasure and don't feel like watching cheap horror movies on the tellie...well, here you go. Plus, we could all use a good long shower on a saturday night.

Written by W Doug Bolden

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