Bodies Are Disgusting
December 15, 2013
A Review by Michael David Anderson
The synopsis posted on S. Gates’s debut novel, Bodies Are Disgusting, tells very little about the events contained therein, but one thing is certain: the protagonist, you, have survived what the hospital staff insists was an encounter with a drunk driver. Your memories of the event, however, are a complete, utter blank. From there, things only continue to spiral downward into madness. Ultimately, Bodies Are Disgusting is a tale about a human at the whim of a god, and the fate of the world is at stake.
Gates has crafted a story with themes reminiscent of both H.P. Lovecraft and Clive Barker. While the story is detailed, many details are left for the reader to puzzle out. One of the strangest aspects of the novel, I found, was the second person narration. The protagonist still has a name––Doug––and when I came across his name in the story, I found the experience quite jarring because I had become used to my own forced point of view. In this respect, imagine pretending to be someone else and getting so involved in what is happening you forget what your name is supposed to be and expect someone to say your own name. I often find second person narration to be quite taxing, and I sometimes forgot the main character’s name was Doug. As a result, Bodies Are Disgusting is held back by this method, despite the fact Doug himself proves to be full-fledged character rather than a simple avatar. Vague indications regarding Doug’s lifestyle also require a bit of reading between the lines. On Gates’s blog, she indicates that she wrote Doug as transgender, which solidifies some of the characterization and details that otherwise might have been harder to accurately deduce.
Where the novel succeeds, however, are the relationships between the characters, which are spot on. The horror is also well defined. The nightmare sequences alone would cause readers who also enjoy video games such as Silent Hill to rejoice; Gates has admitted much of the story is inspired by Japanese horror games. Sexuality, akin to anime and hentai, also enters the mix, although it does not play a blatant role; Gates weaves these ideas more into the subtext with covert suggestions.
Bodies Are Disgusting is a fast read, but it certainly is not for everyone. For me, the best parts of the novel are the psychological aspects as well as the horror, which is handled quite well. Other aspects, specifically the second person narration, can be viewed as a hindrance while others may consider this viewpoint as an immersive storytelling device. Those who find themselves averse to body horror or alternative lifestyles need not apply.