Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Whole Lotta Rapine Going On

Triage by Richard Laymon, Edward Lee, and Jack Ketchum (2001): Originally printed as a limited-edition hardcover, Triage brought together three fairly famous horror writers to structure novellas around the same central premise: a guy walks into a place of work and starts shooting.

The late Richard Laymon's piece is the weakest of the three, an office-space thriller with a ridiculously hyper-competent, crazed killer and all the rape you could want, if you want such things. The ratio of 'rape' to 'vengeance for rape' is about 10-1, which gives the whole exercise about as unwholesome a feeling as I really need.

Edward Lee's piece is also preoccupied with sex, rape, and bad touching. It is pleasingly loopy at times, set as it is on a spaceship of the dominant, hyper-technologized fundamentalist Catholic Earth Empire. You won't see the twist ending coming, and it is a bit of a hoot, but all the vaginal probing that comes before that may blunt a lot of the impact.

Ketchum's concluding piece is both the best of the trio and the oddest, as the novella goes way off the reservation to give us the day-to-day life of a beaten-down writer who works at a bargain-basement literary agency. He's a sad sack...but a sad sack with two girlfriends, at least when the story starts, and an ex-wife who's turned into a lesbian.

Maybe the three writers misheard 'novella' as 'telenovella.' Sex and rape are mostly absent, and Ketchum's tale gives us a nice bit of characterization with the depressed protagonist. Still, there's nothing either horrifying or particularly thrilling about the story. As a whole or in parts, not recommended.

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