Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by Richard Laymon, Edward Lee & Jack Ketchum
Published by Leisure Books
The concept was pretty cool to begin with; three authors are given an opening scene and allowed to run with it however they deemed fit. The scene? A man walks into a place of business with a shotgun and opens fire.
Given to three very different imaginations, it’s no surprise that Triage does go all over the place, and that’s the fun of it if you ask me. Originally released by Cemetery Dance Publications in a currently out of print edition, Leisure has picked up the gauntlet and gotten this out to the mass-market cause that’s just how they roll. Can’t fault them for getting good horror to the masses!
First up is Laymon’s take on the tale, “Triage”; a man walks into a woman’s place of work with a shotgun, looking specifically for her, and blows away all her fellow employees to get to her. She manages to escape and the entire story takes place inside the office building where she works, following her escape and eventual confrontation with the maniac.
This story is pure Laymon through and through. Violence, gore, sex; it’s all here in just over a hundred pages. While it’s not the most original or interesting take on the premise (that would be Lee’s), it’s still a fun read on the same level that pretty much anything Laymon wrote.
Next up is Edward Lee’s vision, “In the Year of Our Lord: 2202”. As the title implies, this time we’re two hundred years in the future, on board a vessel doing a routine supply run at about a quarter the speed of light. This time when the man walks in he shoots up the place, as well, but he’s done in by the story’s central character and the rest of the tale follows her as she slowly unravels the mystery of why this happened to her.
It’s a very strange tale, a very long one as well, but also filled with Lee-isms left and right, down to his consistently annoying habit of having his characters repeat important plot information to themselves so the reader doesn’t fall behind. This is one of the only instances where such a thing actually works, since there’s a lot (sometimes too much) techno babble going on. Most interesting about the tale, though, is that the future it’s set in is one where Christianity, specifically Catholicism, is the rule of the day and everyone’s a Jesus freak. Now that, my friends, is real horror. The whole story is worth getting through for the pay off on the final page, which I bet you’ll never see coming.
Finally is Ketchum’s tale, “Sheep Meadow Story”. This time the opening scene is just a dream had by perpetual loser Stroup, who imagine he’s killing his ex-wife, now a practicing lesbian. It gives him some satisfaction, but it never lasts. We follow him as he goes about his job of reading through piles of manuscripts to find out which ones are right for the publisher he works for, a job he hates but allows him to make his own hours.
As more and more stress and aggravation piles on his shoulders, we can easily trace his path from just a frustrated wanna-be writer to the moment he finally snaps, going out in public with a gun and a very clear intention. In a Ketchum story, though, things never end the way you think they’re going to, though, and “Sheep Meadow” is no exception.
While it’s always cool to read a Ketchum narrative, this one just didn’t leave me feeling much of anything, to be honest. Not that it’s bad, I don’t think the man can really write anything one would call “bad”, it’s just kind of “meh”; “Sheep Meadow Story” just kind of stops and feels decidedly incomplete.
But really, you can’t complain too much when you’ve got a book with stories by three powerhouses in the genre, so Triage is more than worth your time! Recommended!
4 1/2 out of 5
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