Thursday, 15 September 2011

Fleshbags by Gerald Rice

FleshbagsFleshbags by Gerald Rice

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The zombie subgenre has really taken off in the last ten years. Personally, I thought it would have died five years ago, but today it’s still running strong. The zombie is like the vampire. Both creatures are undead, and yet we love them. We love them so much that it might take another ten years before we finally get bored of them, if ever.

Fifteen years ago, zombie literature was scarce. Today it’s everywhere. This brings me to Gerald Rice and his short gem of a novella, Fleshbags. The title of this book itself reeks of the undead, and what Gerald has managed to do with this story is not revolutionize the zombie market so much as help it evolve. His undead creatures are a different beast from your typical zombie, and it is really welcoming.

What I liked most about Fleshbags, however, were the interesting characters that populate the story. Loman is on a mission to get to his daughter from school and save her from the sudden outbreak that makes people strip naked and their stomachs to look like translucent sacks filled rotting organ tissue. Along the way he teams up with a person who wears all leather and a motorcycle helmet, the latter of which he/she never takes off. Ms. Mila is a teacher at Loman’s daughter’s school who hates the children she teaches. Bill and his wife, Sarah, notice that Mr. Anders is home early from work, which he never is, and that there seems to be something wrong with him. When Bill goes over to investigate, he finds much more than a sick man.

I once had a conversation with a friend about how zombies can be used for any metaphor the writer chooses, and Gerald Rice does a marvelous job of doing so in Fleshbags. The story, I thought at least, is about the dark things we store and lock away. Beneath the skin of every individual, there is something darker, perhaps even dangerous, lurking. There’s a secret behind every locked door you pass ignorantly by every day. Not only has Gerald created his own zombie, but he put them in a setting that was easy to believe, amongst humans, everyday people we all know, love and hate.

My biggest criticism is that this is a novella with a large cast. It was difficult at first to remember who was who and what they were doing, but once I caught on, it was one hell of a ride. I also would have liked it if some of the subplots were smoothed out more. But don't let these things deter you from what is very much a fun read. If you like zombies and the zombie subgenre, then I invite you to give Fleshbags a try. Do so, and you just might meet some interesting people.

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Saturday, 10 September 2011


I just read a great blog post by James Everington, titled A Drunken Conversation About Ghost Stories.

This post brought back memories of when I was a kid, having conversations with friends about whether or not we believed in ghosts. These kind of conversations happened regularly, and inevitably the ghost stories would come out.

When I got older and began drinking with friends, the ghost stories became more and more animated. Yet, as I get older, the less people want to talk about ghosts. The people I know now either get too spooked about such topics or they are complete atheists.

Which is cool. I'm an agnostic in pretty much all matters regarding the supernatural and spiritual, myself, so I find both atheistic and theistic conversations about ghosts fascinating.

Here is my comment in James's blog post:

"Great post. I love a good ghost story, but I don't think I believe in them. That makes me sound indecisive.

What I mean is, I've seen and experienced some things in my life that I cannot explain. But I know that they could have been hallucinations. If they were not hallucinations, then that doesn't mean that the things I've seen were ghosts. I don't think we can know for sure until science proves it, or more than one person actually talks to a ghost at the same time."

The things I've seen and experienced, as I said above, could have been explained as anything but having seen something supernatural. There was one time, and I didn't mention this one because I wanted to write about it here, when a friend and I were sitting together in the basement of a mutual friend's home. I was on the phone with my girlfriend of the time and there was some music playing softly. The lights were very dim. Someone entered the basement. He was wearing a sweater with brown and white stripes. He sat down on the easy chair next to us, and then faded and disappeared.

As you can imagine, both me and my friend made a strained "ahhhhh!" sound at the same time. This, however, was reassuring; my friend had seen it too. If that wasn't bad enough, the figure came again, doing the exact same thing and eliciting more "ahhhhh!" sounds from us. My girlfriend, still on the phone, kept asking, "What's going on?" but I was too afraid to speak. I hung up on her and me and my friend took off upstairs where everyone else was.

Once we explained what had happened,, we were told by the people who live there that we had just met Bill, their ghost.

Despite having had this experience, I still realize that there might not be any such thing as ghosts. Granted, my friend saw it and reacted to it at the same time as I did, but the lights were so low as to be nearly nonexistent. There was just enough light to see the mans sweater, the white and the brown stripes. His face was lost in shadow.

I cannot explain what it was we saw that night, but I've thought about it a lot since. Ghosts, or things like it, could be anything from mere imprints we leave on space and time, or they could indeed be lost and confused spirits. It's certainly more fun to think of them as the latter, but when it comes down to it, I don't believe in ghosts.

I suspect they might exist, but that's just me. I spend a lot of time sitting on a fence, observing. One thing I do know, though, is that if I was an eccentric millionaire with time on my hands, I'd be a ghost investigator. The Skeptical type, but I'd do it nonetheless!