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Tender Is The Flesh


Agustina Bazterrica

Tender Is The Flesh
average rating is 4 out of 5

Horror, Extreme, Dystopia

R. Alex Jenkins

Tender is The Flesh is a messed up dystopian paradox in which the rich and privileged do what they want, eat whatever they like and discriminate against other humans like cattle gone, literally, to the slaughter.

It's an impossible concept that couldn't possibly exist in the future, which makes the book really outlandish in places, but let's imagine a future dystopia in thousands of years from now when space travel is like popping down the shops. We come across planet Mulch, ruled by cows, who breed other cows for sustenance in a sort of inverse cannibalistic society, except that's what we do right now, breed and slaughter millions of cows every day, so why not humans in their place if meat suddenly became unavailable? Lobotomise inferior human beings, cage them off and handle them like edible meat. The secret is to no longer care about each other, like we couldn't care less about the dead cows that produce the beef that sits on our plates during Sunday lunch.

This isn't a five-star read, however, because the character development leaves a lot to be desired and the concepts behind the horrors of human meat trafficking are more shocking than the execution of the book itself. Tender Is The Flesh reads like a technical manual at times rather than an exciting thriller, told from a detached third-party account into the nightmares of a rubber-stamped cannibal society, but not really from the heart, eyes or perspective of any of the victims, only the judge, jury and executioner. It often reads like a guide rather than a work of thrilling fiction.

In a stressed dystopian environment you're not supposed to feel any hope and the book succeeds in creating a sordid sense of privileged depravity and a perverse nightmare that society could yet become, but interpersonal actions are rarely heartfelt or vulnerable enough for top marks. There's no pleading with anyone to stop behaving this way. There's only anger and disgust at lack of human empathy and warmth and, with the exception of a few scenes, I rarely cared and wasn't emotionally involved or shocked by anything.

But detached, technical and cold-blooded it certainly is. And a visionary book.

This is nearly a masterpiece of dystopian horror, as distant, impersonal and wildy deranged.

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