"Zippered Flesh: Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad!" Book Review
Edited by Weldon Burge
2012, 284 pages, Fiction
Released on February 6th, 2012
Many years ago, a good friend of mine who worked part-time as a piercer decided to open a tattoo shop. From painting to putting up the flash racks on the walls, I was involved in every step of the process. The real fun began when it opened. I got my first tattoo when I was 16, so the world of ink was no stranger to me. Piercing, however, was a different story. Working at the shop I witnessed how far people were willing to go to modify the way they look. After we started doing conventions, everything from scarification and branding to subdermal implants and suspensions became commonplace things for me. That lead to an interest in the work of Steve Haworth, the man responsible for the invention and popularization of subdermal and transdermal implants and the Guinness World Records' Most Advanced Body Modification Artist since 1999. Coupled with all the botched facelifts, awful lip injections, liposuction gone wrong, and deformed breasts I'd seen, I began to see how body modification and horror could come together. When I heard about the Zippered Flesh anthology, I had to read it. It delivered thrills that exceeded my expectations.
The collection kicks off with Michael Bailey's Bootstraps-The Binds of Lasolastica, a fast-paced tale that feels more like a science fiction narrative until things start to go wrong. If you've ever wondered what the cloning debate would be like if a talented horror author decided to play with it, read this tale. The mounting tension and enjoyable prose have landed this one in the Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award Recommended Reading list for short fiction.
Things keep rolling with Michael Laimo's Idol, a story about taking our love for celebrities too far. Then comes Christopher Nadeau's You With Me, a standout that mixes infatuation with a very healthy dose of gory horror. Last but not least, that first hald of the book also contains L.L. Soares' Sawbones, a haunting narrative that combines a killer, lots of blood, a ghost that's not a ghost, and a wild, unexpected finale that will stay with readers long after they're done with the anthology.
When the anthology reaches the halfway point, things go from decent to great with three consecutive stories that are worth the price of the book.
First comes Graham Masterton's Sex Object. Mrs. Ellis is the wife of a rich and powerful man. She's absolutely stunning and tries to keep her husband happy by agreeing to every twisted wish he has, including becoming a sex toy for him and all friends. Sadly, he's still losing interest quickly. To solve her problem and be able to accommodate more of her husband's friends, Mrs. Ellis turns to Dr. Arcolio, a man who can give her something very special: a second vagina. After that first surgery, things degenerate quickly. What follows is a narrative laden with sex, surgeries and blackmail. By the end, Mrs. Ellis is a monster and Masterton's sharp prose vividly describes what she turns herself into in ways readers won't soon forget.
The great, late Michael Louis Calvillo's The Sad, Not-So-Sad, Ballad of Goat-Head Jean, Ambivalent Queen is as fast and fun as the title suggests. Jean has self-esteem issues, so when she finds a man that will pay attention to her, she ends up doing things that she would never have done before. A few tattoos later, Jean learns just how dangerous her boyfriend's obsession with Satan can be. Written in Calvillo's characteristic straightforward prose, this one oozes evil along with the saline solution from perforated breast implants.
Jessy Wolfe's Locks of Loathe completes the trio. A woman struggling with baldness finds a cure, but taking someone else's hair and scalp has some unexpected side effects. This entertaining tale puts a fresh spin on the classic possessed-transplant horror story and the extreme anxiety the main character feels as she undergoes her transformation vibrates in every page.
As always, some stories are stronger than others, but the 20 tales that make up Zippered Flesh all stay within the realm of body modification and offer some warped version of what happens when it goes wrong. If you like body horror, this is definitely a must-read.