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The All Consuming: A Scifi Body Horror Written around Silly Concept

The All Consuming by Lucius Shepard and Robert Frazier

The All Consuming by Lucius Shepard and Robert Frazier

So I really wanted to read some scifi. I was indecisive so once again I returned to The Year’s Best Scifi Eighth Edition and read a short story. This time around I chose a strange tale called The All-Consuming by Lucius Shepard and Robert Frazier and here is my review.

The story is in the future in a remote part of the world called Santander Jimenez. This is a town full of criminals and those who need to stay off the grid. It’s on the edge of Malsueno jungle which is polluted to the port of complete mutation and creation of new lifeforms. It’s a very scary place to be and a good place for people to be if they don’t want to be found.

The story follows Arce. He is a man who is brave enough to travel in the jungle and does odd jobs to make money to get by. But then he gets the strangest job of all. An eccentric millionaire from Japan hires Arce to fetch things rom the jungle for him to eat. This stranger explains he is a Guinness Book World Record winner and plans to eat one of everything in the world, even the items from the polluted jungle. Arce warns him, he will die from poisoning, but the rich man argues he will only become one with the jungle instead. Despite the insanity of the job offer, Arce takes the money and does the job. And as he continues to deliver moss, logs, and strange oddities to this client to eat, the man begins to fall ill and mutate, becoming what he believes to be, "one with the jungle."

So the good? The world is great. I been noticing a trend in science fiction lately with these futuristic culturally diverse exotic worlds opposed 1950's sterile traditional future or the 1980s gritty cyberpunk settings we all grew up with, and I have been loving it. And this is one of those unique layered worlds. Its advanced, yet dirty and kinda broken, but so exotic and alien at the same time. The detail is great. And this story has body horror that is incredibly well done. There are points where it gets under your skin with the gruesome detail, which is the purpose of the genre. It is a slow burn tale that leads to an epic yet horrific finale. It has this an arc somewhat similar to the film The Fly, so if you like that film, you would like this.

The bad? I thought Arce is a character was weak, and personally I did not appreciate his relationship with his young prostitute. But people in this setting are supposed to be bad people, so I guess it makes sense for the leads to be crappy also. The body horror is great, but it’s done so well it could make the reader nauseous if they don’t have the stomach for it. The ending leaves Arce in a strange mindset that made me question his decisions and that leaves the story on a bit of a bummer ending. Then lastly, despite the well done horror and world building, this plot is nutty. It’s hard to take seriously that a man would want to eat at least once of every object in the world. So that is a hurdle of silliness readers have to deal with to in order to appreciate the good parts of the story.

Overall, this is an imaginative scifi horror written around a silly idea. I would recommend to anyone who likes horror. If you like scifi, then you should weigh the silly concept alongside the body horror and judge if it worth your while. It’s not perfect but it’s a pretty darn good read.

4 1/2 smoothies out of Five

Overall Rating: A Scifi Body Horror Written around Silly Concept.

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