Written by R. Scott McCoy
Published by Shroud Publishing
Publication Date: 2009
Format: Black & White – 155 pages
I know what you thought when you saw the cover: Shriveled, dried up guy with empty, white eyes= yet another gawdamn zombie novel (or, if you are still excited about them: “Yay! Another Zombie Novel!”). However you may want to calm down a moment because this is as much of a zombie novel as it is an instruction manual for installing Linux on a dead badger, which you may recall being an entirely different book. Instead, R. Scott McCoy’s debut novel, Feast, is a tale of death, rebirth, vengeance, selfishness, temptation, crime and soul jerky.
Since that doesn’t really help anyone out much, let’s look a bit deeper: Nick Ambrose is your standard good cop, a guy who wants nothing more than to take the evil, mean and nasty people off of the street and keep them from hurting anyone else. Then, when he and his brother corner what they believe to be a simple serial killing nutjob with a house full of bodies, things go… awry. The nutjob, as it turns out, isn’t just crazy. He’s figured out the secret of eternal life through eating the souls of others, a process that leaves behind a dried up husk of meat reminiscent of a product once endorsed by Macho Man Randy Savage. Thanks to the heroism of his brother, Nick manages to escape with his life plus a little extra. Armed with the ability to see the evil in people and the knowledge to devour their souls, he sets off into the world to find his destiny.
Sure, it sounds a little cheesy when I put it that way. A bit too much like a bad super-hero story, but the Devil isn’t the only thing that hides in the details. The spiritual center here is the struggle for self-definition in the wake of an absolute change of life. How does a good man justify the price that must be paid for his new abilities, the lives that must be sacrificed? Can anyone remain unchanged when given nearly unlimited power? The questions are tough and Nick does not always make the right choices.
Of course, that is occurring amidst some of the craziest crap a person could imagine dealing with. People dying left and right: check. Cannibalistic college professor: check. Half-naked nutcase in a tribal mask: double check. Add to that a bit of gangster action and some in-brain fighting with the asshole who moved in upstairs and you may start to get an image of the kind of ride we have here. Oh, and the main character starts Kung-fu training, too. Part of what made this book so damn fun was the inability to guess what corner would be turned next. There’s even a minor bit of quite touching romance that doesn’t slow down or stop the action, something I really wish Koontz and a few others would learn how to accomplish. This story is nothing if not unpredictable.
Then again, that same craziness works as a bit of a detriment as well. Sometimes, the story feels a bit too rushed, running headlong from one bit of psycho to the next without giving the character or the reader time to absorb what has occurred. There were times that I thought Nick’s real super-power was his ability to easily accept any weird-ass thing happening to him. How do you not spend at least a moment or two what-the-hell-just-happened-ing (yes, that is a word now) upon discovering that you are massively strong, practically invulnerable, see auras on everyone, hear voices in your head and YOU JUST ATE A FREAKING SOUL?! That made suspension of disbelief a tad rough on me.
Also, I didn’t feel that the character was given a complete journey. Things happen, he changes mentally as well as physically but I did not feel a sense of closure. I realize that isn’t how real life works, but it gives fiction a sense of wholeness that is lacking here.
Then there is the last page. A single paragraph that still confounds me. It may be a silly, cheesy waste of time that should never have made it past the first draft. Or it may be a brilliant touch to remind us that our past sins never go away, regardless of what we have done to atone for them.
Come the slouching break of dawn, Feast was a fun, though slightly flawed, romp through the cornfields with a decent bit of meat dangling from its sassafrass (why mix metaphors when you can puree them sh*ts) and well worth the eight bucks
Available from Shroud Publishing
Available from Amazon