It has random-ass stock cover art that has nothing to with any of the stories (an almost obligatory feature of small press books), stories that don’t really make sense with each other, and a blurb on the back promising three “short novels”. Mangled Meat‘s first “novel” is 21 pages long, the second “novel” 31 pages long, and the third “novel” is 51 pages long, so yes, these are short novels. Maybe Deadite Press will publish the dot that I used to finish my last sentence and call it a “short vignette.”
“The Decortication Technician” stands out like a cockroach on a wedding cake. It has no gore or sex, but it manages to evoke a Ray Bradbury sense of wonder. In the far future, a man must dissect an alien that is like nothing he’s seen before. The writing is sometimes clunky and graceless, but it manages to create a believable futuristic world in 20 pages, and I enjoyed the big reveal at the end. To spoil it a bit, it’s like the ending of Anthony Boucher’s “The Quest for Saint Aquin” reversed. This story is good stuff.
“The Cyesolagniac” is about a guy who fancies pregnant women, and how his fetish lands him in hot water (figuratively and literally, unfortunately). Disgusting in places, and has a cute ending. I didn’t like how Lee tries to make a boring and run-of-the-mill fetish sound like the most taboo thing in the world. “Heyton sat in the chair with his pants down. A glance across the squalid room revealed his pitiful reflection in the mirror: a ludicrous caricature. The magazine shook in his hands. If my dear dead parents could see me now…” You’d think the guy liked fiddling kids or something.
“Room 415” is about a well-meaning beta male who has been cheated on, and now finds himself unable to get an erection unless he sees women being hurt. He falls in with a crooked pimp and a retinue of high-priced escorts, with nasty results. There’s some fun gore porn at the end, but I found the story to be a long car ride for a short day at the beach: long and slow, and the payoff at the end isn’t worth it. There’s lots of overly-detailed description of luscious tits and asses spilling out of translucent lingerie, etc – I get the sense that Lee was typing the story one-handed. Apparently this is the “nice” version of the story, and there’s an alternate version somewhere with a far darker and more misanthropic end.
Mangled Meat is an interesting collection. It doesn’t take more than twenty minutes to read, so it could be worthwhile if you find it cheap somewhere. The first story is the best and the last story is the worst, but they’re all at least somewhat readable. It’s not really what it was advertised as, but I could see myself reading more of Edward Lee’s short s…er, novels.