Reviews In The Machine : City of the Flesh Eaters (2019)
Growing up, zombie movies were something that really fueled my love for the horror genre. They scared all holy hell out of me and I think the main reason was the implacability and inevitable nihilistic doom to which the movies all seemed to portend. A zombie by itself might pose no threat. But bring on a herd of the shambling monsters and your odds were a lot worse. Add the fact that as the movie goes on, there just seems to be more and more of the things and the outlook is bleak, indeed.
This was the benchmark I used as I began to develop my own sensibilities in crafting horror and it is something I will always be grateful for.
So reading this series from Thomas Flowers I find myself appreciative on several levels. First, it returns the zombie genre back to those days I remember from so long ago but as a bonus, he has also grounded these stories heavily in the eighties. Doing so only helps me feel an even stronger connection as the books have now become tied up in my own fuzzy, happy memories of times gone by.
This series, currently standing at two books, began with Island of the Flesh Eaters. And as the VHS video tape-style cover and title would suggest, this is one story that goes after you from page one, taking little time for fluff or ceremony. You are thrust into the story along with all the gore and glory you would expect. It’s a quick read and well worth your time.
Just last month, we got the next book in the series, City of the Flesh Eaters. And what I think works most effectively here, besides the writing, is the fact that while it exists as a sequel, it runs more concurrently to the events from book one and as a result, the two books could be theoretically read in any order. It’s something that can be hard to pull off but Flowers has done a good job in this effort.
The book follows a format of moving the camera around between a group of characters, giving individual chapters to specific people. The story-lines don’t all occur necessarily at the same time and while it can be jarring to jump from one character to the next and back again, I think this feeling is actually important to the experience of the book. After all, isn’t disorientation exactly what the characters are experiencing themselves?
As would be expected, this story moves along quickly and as the reader, I was waiting for everyone to be brought together and the point where the book would become unified and moving in the same direction. And then, in one brilliant, extended chapter, Flowers takes hold of the different threads of the plot, brings them all together and makes them one with a heavy piece of twine wrapped tightly around everything. It is a plot that is deceptively complex, fooling you with how simple it seems. It is a project that requires organization, even being of shorter length and again, Flowers has proven up to the task of keeping a lot of narrative organized and up in the air.
If you cut your teeth on the glory of eighties horror, this is a book that you should check out. While store-bought nostalgia has become more of the norm anymore, this one feels quite different, coming from the creative mind of someone who has a clear love for that time and for the culture which came out of it. Reading this as well as his Planet of the Dead series gives me little glimpses into what it is I love about zombie movies in the first place. Do yourself a favor and dive in today.
Chad A. Clark is an author of dark-leaning fiction, born and raised in the middle of the United States. His road began in Illinois, along the banks of the Mississippi and from there he moved to Iowa, where he has lived ever since. From an early age, he was brined in the glory that is science fiction and horror, from the fantastical of George Lucas, Gene Roddenberry and Steven Spielberg to the dark and gritty tales of Stephen King and George Romero. The way from there to here has been littered with no shortage of books and movies, all of which have and continue to inform his narrative style to this day. Chad has written horror, science fiction and non-fiction. He has been published by Crystal Lake Publishing, Dark Minds Press, Shadow Work Publishing, Sirens Call Publications and EyeCue Productions and his books have received critical praise from the Ginger Nuts of Horror, Ink Heist, Confessions of a Reviewer, Horror DNA and This is Horror. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page