Monday, June 16, 2014

Bodies Are Disgusting by S. Gates

There aren't many horror authors who are willing to incorporate LGBT themes and characters in their work. Plenty are willing to pay them lip service or exploit them for a titillation factor, but few can properly develop a story around them that makes their gender or sexuality relevant, yet not the focus.

S. Gates is one of the few who can properly develop such themes, and Bodies Are Disgusting is a fantastic example. As the story starts, our protagonist is trapped in a hospital, with unsettling gaps in his memory, and a spectral strange haunting his waking moments. The horror is both creepy and atmospheric, and the uncertainty surrounding the protagonist only adds to the effect. It's clear before long that Doug is in transition, but it takes a while to understand towards which gender he is transitioning.

Part tormented game and part supernatural horror, this is a story that has elements of Lovecraft, Barker, and even Poppy Z. Brite to it. The narration here is what really makes the tale work, with Gates capitalizing on all of those elements to keep the reader guessing. You're never quite sure of anything about the story, the setting, or even the characters, as the entire world repeatedly shifts and shudders in and out of the shadows. It's something of a challenging read, requiring patience and attention from the reader, but there's nothing wrong with that. As much as we may like a little disposable simply blood-and-guts sometimes, deep, intense, thoughtful horror like Bodies Are Disgusting doesn't come along very often and deserves to be savored.

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