Friday, July 3, 2015

Did someone say "Hardcore"?

Terra Insanus

By Edward Lee

Publisher: Deadite Press

Pub. Date: June 12, 2015

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Horror is often divided into camps. There is the mainstream camp. Then there is the hardcore camp. Then there are lots of lots of sub-genres and marketing divisions: vampire, zombie, body horror, psychological, cyber-punk. You name your poison and horror has a label for it. The only thing I can tell you for sure is that if it sparkles, it isn’t horror.

Then there is Edward Lee. He is often described as a hardcore horror writer. That is like saying death metal is grumpy music. Lee writes prose that begs to be kicked out of class then burns the school down with the teachers and students still in it. He’s the party guy who turns the volume up to 11 when you asked him to turn it down to 7. If there is a taboo Lee hasn’t written about I haven’t heard of it yet. Lee isn’t just his own camp. He is his own wilderness.

Terra Insanus from Deadite Press is a good example. It is a collection of four pieces of short fiction. The title is just a hint of the madness between the pages. Three stories were originally published in the 90s while one, “The Sea-Slop Thing”, is published in this book for the first time. If you have read Lee before, you pretty much know what you are getting into although two of the stories caught me by surprise. But let’s take them in order.

“The Stick Woman” starts the collection and immediately tells you that that author is not going to play nice. It is about the wife of very rich man who finds herself in a terrible situation. Let’s just say she has bitten off more than she can chew. It is Lee pushing the boundaries of horror into the grotesque, the extreme and the scatological. It is repulsive but mesmerizing. But it also shows that Lee is not one who writes just for the shock, the buildup is perfect giving the reader the sense of a car crash that he cannot turn away from. I may have felt like I need a 100% bleach and lye shower after reading it but I can’t deny the emotional impact.

The next two pieces are quite different than what I’ve read by Lee in the past even though they were written in the 90s. “Shit-House” and “The Ushers” are very angry works flowing with a free association style. “Shit-House” seems more political than the two; essentially a diatribe of rage and discontentment with the world and mankind. “The Ushers” is a first person account of a writer struggling with his own demons and I do not necessarily mean that figuratively. It may be the most frightening of the four stories since it places the horrors in a par with real and existential fears we all struggle through. It is an exquisite downer of a tale.

Which leaves the one new story. “The Sea-Slop Thing” is the headliner and shows something I do not see much from this author; a raucous sense of humor. It is a bawdy tale featuring unmentionable things done with sausages and escapades with strange sea monsters. Like the first work, Lee is crossing boundaries but here he is doing it with joy and abandonment. It is dark erotic comedy at its best. The author may show a lot of rage in his stories but “The Sea-Slop Thing” is evidence that behind the rage is an amused smirk that is able to laugh at humankind’s strange perversions and antics. Edward Lee may be odd reading for some readers who think “hardcore” is Stephen King. Those readers will be in for a shock and hopefully close to someone who knows how to use a defibrillator. But for those adventurous readers who realize horror is that thing that breaks into your home and doesn’t apologize but flips you the finger…they will be quite elated with Edward Lee’s brand of terror.

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