Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Written by Jeff Jacobson
Published by Medallion Press
One of the eternal tropes of horror is the question "Are you eating it, or is it eating you?" With hundreds of books and movies out there to play on the question, it might seem that the genre's been overdone. However, just when we think there's nothing left to say about a subject, an author like Jeff Jacobson comes along and paints a horrifying and original image that is both based in reality and nauseatingly effective. Welcome to Wormfood.
The story revolves around Arch Stanton, a 16-year-old who lives with his grumpy grandma in the poverty stricken town of Whitewood. When his boss runs short of meat in his diner, he sends Arch and the town psychos to a deserted part of a ranch to claim cows that are already dead and festering. While any normal person would see such an idea as "not good," the boss serves the meat to his customers, who then become infected with nasty parasitic worms that kill in the most bloody and painful manner. Add in a few interesting subplots around a dead rancher's belt buckle and his gorgeous and easy daughter, include a few die-hard feuds, and you have what makes for an entertaining, if disgusting, read.
Jacobson writes in an easy, comfortable style that allows the reader to slip right into the lead character's point of view. Through him we get to watch the events unfold as well as appreciate the genuine revulsion he feels. With the reader in tow, Jacobson drags Arch through a mire of coagulated blood, rotting meat, and festering personalities. The result is often uncomfortable but always well written and, in a strange way, entertaining.
To be fair, there are a few minor details that don't seem to jibe well with the real world or physics. (Witness one of the psychos being thrown out the back of a speeding pickup truck due to a wreck and still getting up and walking away. Sure it could happen, but it's bloody unlikely.) Plus, the question of exactly what the monstrous little worms are is never really answered. Hints are dropped, but there is no real explanation as to where they came from and how they got so terribly big. It's a minor complaint and one for which the reader can easily suspend disbelief for a few pages.
However, Jacobson's real strength lies in the vivid detail and imagery in the story. From the stench of a fetid pool of blood to the overall griminess of the area, the reader spends much of the book with crawling skin and a churning stomach. By the time the book is over, it's enough to make one go vegan. Or at least need a long hot shower.
In all, Wormfood is an entertaining read, but it is not for those with weak stomachs or who love burgers.
3 1/2 out of 5
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