Book Review:Wormfood

Wormfood
By Jeff Jacobson
Medallion Press/Paperback
245 pages/$14.95 US/$16.95 CAN

ISBN: 978-1-60542-101-8

Review by Chris Welch

Jeff Jacobson’s novel Wormfood is a very well-written gross novel.

There are well-written novels, and there are gross novels, but rarely is gross presented so well. Needless to say, this novel is not for your grandmother’s book club. I imagine a lot of people will have a hard time getting past the gross to appreciate the actual writing Jacobson does here.

Wormfood is a gritty, hard-hitting, in-your-face redneck noir horror story. It is a violent, gory —did I mention gross? — tale with real and (possible) supernatural splatterpunk overtones and most of the foul-mouthed characters are about as redeemable as the nearest cockroach. It is a lot of fun if you enjoy this particular flavor of the horror genre.

If you like your horror gentle and quiet, like Algernon Blackwood or Shirley Jackson, for example, then you will not like this novel at all. This book is the literary equivalent of a Rob Zombie movie.

The novel is set in a low-class small town in northern California, where poverty and corruption rule over most of the residents. Archie Stanton is a teenager who tries to support himself, and his grandmother, by working at a bar/grill owned by Fat Ernest, a mean and uncaring S.O.B. who happens to own the land on which the Stanton’s have their mobile home. Fat Earnest does anything to make a buck, including bribing the police, grave robbing, and using less than savory meat in his hamburgers.

Archie is forced to do certain illegal things for Fat Earnest, along with two “hired guns,” as it were, named Bert and Junior Sawyer, brothers who also have a mother that may or may not actually be a witch. One of the illegal things the trio does is to poach cattle from a local rancher; caring little if the cows are alive or dead.

Eventually, costumers at Fat Earnest are infected with worm-like parasites and soon great carnage ensues in all its bloody glory. However, when Archie discovers the actual source of the worms (and that aspect of the story is more original and unique than what you might think by reading this review), it sets him onto a collision path with Fat Earnest, the Sawyer brothers, and their darkly mystical mother who also holds a long personal grudge against Grandma Stanton.

The novel does have a few flaws, like early on there is a long expository info-dump on firearms that throws the narrative pace off for a short while, and sometimes the characters seem a little too stereotypical in some of their traits, like, for example, the bumpkin deputy.

There is a predictable quality to the story, in the sense that the cover picture and the title sort of telegraph the general plot line. However, Jacobson does a very good job presenting unexpected twists (the origin of worms) and suspenseful moments before the inevitable finally arrives. Of course, no one ever picks up a novel like Wormfood expecting it be similar to the latest Philip Roth book, either.

Wormfood is definitely recommended for hardcore horror fans and for people who are in the market for a reason to become vegetarians.

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