The Body Shop and Other Amusements
by Patrick Welch
(Dark Star Publications, e-book, $3.95 download, $9.95 CD; PDF and e-Reader formats; published 2000. Re-issued by Double Dragon E-Books, 2002.)
Patrick Welch's E-book The Body Shop consists of a novella and twelve short stories. The title piece is the most engaging and original story in the whole collection. Its 40,000 odd words pack in a fair amount of black satirical horror. Set in a post apocalyptic future where life is very cheap and rapidly cannibalised, we discover the human body to be very much in need of a Dr. Frankenstein figure (Edgerton) to put us back together. Of course there's a high monetary cost, and disregard of gender and ethics. For our hideous human vanity will do anything to procure a functional body. My favourite moments are when the heads (only), of the injured rich, argue about their needs. They've been waiting for a body for years. Even become a little community, that gets to sing carols with Edgerton once a year!
New head arrival Paula (Violet Dreams) is certainly given a nice laconic introduction to the other heads in the laboratory. Dark laughs begin to flow.
More the pity that there isn't enough of them. Patrick Welch often holds back from pushing the material into a right craziness. It cries out to be more over the top; precisely and intensely chartered into the ridiculous plight of the heads. More weird logic for their story, rather than the one we're given. For the plot becomes a bit obvious, with its growing love story, pursuit by the cops, rival scientist desiring Edgerton's knowledge on body reconstruction and a finally neat (if predictable) reversal of fortune on who controls the heads and body parts.
Of the other dozen (more conventional) tales, the two most outstanding are Grampus and The Odd Disappearance of Myron Jones. The latter is a quietly effective piece on loneliness and how society makes non persons of those it doesn't understand or wish to accommodate. Grampus is a strikingly haunting (if gruesome) work about a young black girl and her mother who are Mambos - my dictionary definition doesn't yield what the story infers, but I understand them to be Haitian witch figures practising voodoo spells. The killing of pets, an 'imaginary' companion in the cellar called Grampus, and the murder (followed by resurrection) of a young boy who'd raped the black girl. The fiction succeeds (without offending). For the character, diction and presence of the young girl narrator is almost innocently amoral, vivid and suggestively dense.
For this story alone and its novella, The Body Shop merits your attention.
Review by Alan David Price.
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© Alan David Price 14 October 2000