I don’t know. Extreme horror just isn’t that extreme for me anymore except in what seems like the pervasive poverty of concept. I’m unsure if I’ve just read so much real extreme horror, meaning nastiness with a real plot and real characterization, and splatter, which makes no pretense about being simply an attempt to gross-out, that it takes a lot to move me. Perhaps I just lucked out in the beginning of my literary life and read good horror, good extreme horror and now little measures up. I mean, you have writers out there like Jack Ketchum and Edward Lee, who write hard content in the course of telling one mean story. The horrific content happens because the tale itself is horrific but you get a plot, you get characters you give a damn about, you get a tight story that draws you in even as it appalls you. Then you have collections like Excitable Boys that are meant to be grotesque and nothing else and present no pretense otherwise. And then you have collections like this, wherein the stories which were meant to be actual stories were poorly written vehicles in which to deliver a gross-out, and not very gross gross-outs at that.
I know, I know, some are going to be tempted to say, “Look, Sugarpants, you just don’t get extreme horror. It’s not meant to be good fiction.” To which I say, “Feh.” Too many writers manage to get it right, marrying excellent story-telling and fabulous gore, for this argument to hold water. Accepting the mediocre because it is gross demeans the whole genre. This collection was neither good stories with extreme content nor a straightforward nausea-fest and as neither fish nor foul, it occupies an uneasy nether land, all the more uneasy because the stories were so… nothing. Nothing to them. It never bodes well when after reading a collection of short stories, I find myself rereading the whole thing because I can’t remember it. Sometimes you need a refresher when you want to discuss a story. You can jog your memory by reading a few lines. Not here. I had to reread entire chunks of many of these stories to recall what they were about, so unimpressive were they as a lot. A few were decent, three were quite good, but the rest were terrible and one so bad I could not get past the first few paragraphs. Read my entire review here.