Title: Fried! Fast Food, Slow Deaths
Author: Anthology of short stories with various authors; edited by Colleen Morris and Joel A. Sutherland
Review Number: 9
Genre: Short Fiction, Horror
Stand alone or Series: Stand Alone
Summary: (from amazon.com)
Fried! contains 23 original tales of horror set in and around fast food restaurants. Each story is written and illustrated by some of today’s newest writers and illustrators. Think Stephen King meets Super Size Me. The book so controversial that a major restaurant chain tried to CENSOR it! Get your fill of monsters, maniacs, murderers and milkshakes. Devour the tale of a band of hobos who crave human flesh. Chow down on the myth of an abandoned restaurant that serves as a gateway for lost and demented souls. Gorge yourself on the story of the veggie burger that turns human beings into human beans. Pig out on the account of the fast food joint that stands as humanity’s last hope for survival in a zombie-infested world. These stories and more from: . D.L. Snell . Gregg Winkler . Michael Josef . Christopher J. Dwyer . Michael Hultquist . Bret Jordan . Shanna Germain . H.F. Gibbard . Andy Kirby . Kevin Lightburn . Jodi Lee . James Patrick Cobb . Cody Goodfellow . Rodney J. Smith . Stephen Leclerc . David Dunwoody . Lisa Becker . MP Johnson . Cheryl Rainfield . Ken Goldman . KJ Kabza . Joel A. Sutherland . Matt Hults
We received a copy of this book from editor and author Joel A. Sutherland, and asked to review it here. Of course I quickly agreed, and was excited to take it on.
Fried! is a collection of short horror stories with a brilliant premise–fast food. Having worked in a fast food establishment during my university days, I am well versed in the nastiness and frankly horrific experiences of a fast food joint. What better a place to give birth to ground-chuck monstrosities–what really lurks beneath the grease vats? What lives in the dumpster outside? What secrets does the meat refrigerator hold? I was ready to cozy up on a nice rainy night, zombie movie playing in the background, and got down with this book.
For what it is, Fried! does not disappoint. However, as is a problem with many short story anthologies, certain stories are better (or significantly worse) than others. On the whole, I can say that the majority of stories in this anthology have good, solidly creepy ideas. It is the level of writing, however, that fails to execute and impress. As Mr. Sutherland related in an email, this was a labor of love that took not only established authors’ work, but also took on amateur writers’ entries–which is an admirable effort, but leaves the result a bit uneven. Certain stories had a clear level of polish and a distinct voice that others lacked, which caused a kind of disjointed reading experience. I found that the stories either were very very good, or very very bad.
In the very good category, I would single out Shanna Germain’s “Sugar Pie, Honey Pie” (my favorite of the book), Michael Josef’s “Station 19”, the pretty funny James Patrick Cobb’s “The FNG”, Ken Goldman’s “Lunchtime at the Justice Café”, Joel A. Sutherland’s “The Bocan”, and Matt Hults’ “Feeding Frenzy” (my second favorite story). Each of these stories not only wrote with a distinct voice that felt real and characters that had dimension, but most importantly had a distinct ending that made sense in context of the story. A major problem with many of the stories in this book (and with many horror stories and movies in general) is the finish line stumble. I applaud each of the above authors for hitting an ending note that worked. In “Sugar Pie, Honey Pie”, I admired Ms. Germain’s creation of a female character that was put in a compromised situation, and for the sake of her daughter and sister makes a sacrifice of her own. Plus, there’s something distinctly creepy about sticky sweet fast food pies, and the ‘Queen Bee’ female hierarchy under the guise of a sweet Grandma type. “Feeding Frenzy” was reminiscent of a Stephen King type of story (think “1408” meets “The Shining” in a fast food restaurant). A perfect note to end the anthology with–I finished with a satisfied smile on my face. (That sounds kind of morbid doesn’t it? What can I say, I love a good scare). Joel’s entry “The Bocan” takes the idea of a Bocan (a gaelic spirit) as the beneficient/malevolent wish granting entity much like a Djinn. A short, and effective tale, if an old one.
There were, unfortunately, a number of stories that left me shaking my head. The very first story of the book in particular did nothing for me and had me doubting the rest of the book. D.L. Snell’s “Meat Drippings” had an interesting idea (bums that were so hungry they attacked and ate humans alive). The delivery, however, was cringe worthy–I felt as though the author was using a thesaurus to find synonyms for certain words, and the plot didn’t make much sense…at all. Not a very strong opening. Another lamentable entry was MP Johnson’s “Snail Wart”. I got about halfway through the story and then was finally told the main character was a male (I was under the impression it was a strange chick). The plot goes something like this: a strange misfit boy buys a pet snail, who he lets climb on his hand every night. Boy gets nasty pustule warts on his hand, that burst open during his shift. The puss makes people FLOAT or BREATHE FIRE. Therefore, a chick that works there LICKS the puss off boy’s hands. All the flying and fire breathing people start developing warts of their own, get pissed at boy and decide to cut off his hand. Boy thinks to himself, “I just want to be home with my snail.”
Yeah…I was mystified too.
All this said though, a fan of horror and of short fiction should give this book a try. I enjoyed it, and the stories that are written well are fun. The majority of stories are not as memorable, but still entertaining. And the terrible stories are fun to read too…if for different reasons.
Notable Quotes/Parts: I’ll do one good one, one bad one (for fairness!).
From “Lunchtime at the Justice Café”
“ “I believe you’ve just hit upon the true meaning of what Justice is all about, mister,” she finally said. “So I might as well fill in some of the details. The man at the end of the counter? That’s Billy Bob Collier, and three years ago he molested little Sally Peters, the preacher’s kid, down in Painted Canyon. But he won’t be doin’ no more molestin’ of young girls ‘long as his arm’s hangin’ on the wall of Sherriff Sweet’s office.” ”
Pretty badass, wouldn’t you say? This story was a good show of how something truly short (barely 4 pages long) can be scary and hit you fast and hard. Loved it.
From “Meat Drippings”
“The vagrant pinned him and slit his stomach open with a shard of beer bottle glass. Instead of intestines, Kevin’s gut was stuffed with hamburger, lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles, all doused in ketchup. The transient buried his face in Kevin’s abdomen and wolfed down the innards, slurping, smacking, crimson sauce staining his beard, brown giblets dangling in his whiskers.
When he woke, Kevin prepared for work.”
When I read this section, I was confused as hell. Wait a minute–Kevin got caught but his intestines were stuffed with burgers and giblets? Was it all a bad dream? Ohhh, I get it, the author was trying to pull a “GOTCHA!” moment. Just…bad, bad writing. Also note the use of “transient” as a thesaurus pull for homeless dude/bum/vagrant.
Additional Thoughts: One short story caught my attention, and while it had a good solid plot and execution, I couldn’t help but giggle incessantly while reading it. The story is Bret Jordan’s “Veggie Burger”–which was cool because there is something inherently wrong with fast food veggie burgers/organic food. It’s a bit of an oxymoron. In any case, the reason for my giggling had nothing to do with Mr. Jordan’s writing, but with the similarities between this story and one of my favorite movies of all time, the hideously wonderful Troll 2.
I HIGHLY recommend everyone to watch Troll 2. It’s the best worst movie ever made. That is NOT hyperbole. Check out this YouTube clip if you don’t believe me.
Verdict: I enjoyed this book, while some of the stories were pretty awful, there were some hidden gems in there as well which make it worth reading if you are a horror fan. Good entry by new smaller publishing firm Graveside Tales, and another big plus since it is available at some bigger retailers, notably amazon.com. Show the smaller publishers some love, and pick it up. It’s not every day you get a creative indie-feel kind of effort like this that is readily available to the public!
Rating: 6 Good, recommend with some reservations
Reading Next: Stardoc by S.L. Viehl