Thursday, February 16, 2012

Book Review:Licker (Novello Publishers, 2006) by Michael A. Arnzen, 112 pages with ads. Limited to 150 copies in the print run.

Michael Arnzen is an accomplished, award winning writer and college professor whose humorous horror has delighted many.

In ‘Licker’, teenager Robert Harper develops an issue with his tongue. And it’s not that it’s tied in knots because he has a date with a hot, vivacious cheerleader named Sheila. No, our boy Rob takes his deaf mute doll to the carnival where she experiences the high of her life atop the Ferris wheel. But after their overwhelming first kiss, life becomes a frightening whirlpool sucking them under.

Later, locked away in a dungeon of sorts, hidden below the midway, are the real freaks of nature, replete with an evil doctor. Of course, the carnival’s owner takes an unnatural liking to Robert’s tongue and its magical gift. That says a mouthful. Since this is a short tale, I will leave it to the reader to swallow the rest.

While a tight and flash paced read, the plot holds out Rob’s unusual gift as the twist to the old carny/kidnap theme. The story fails to create any tension, much less terrify. Any humor is in the form of wry one-liners. It’s all about the kind of taste buds on your tongue.

The key for any reader is to determine just how much he wants to invest in a time worn, over the top plot, and how gross he likes his reading material to be. This story scores high on the gross factor: you have to like gross for gross’s sake. It leaves me wondering if the author was experimenting with gore in place of actual horror, just to see if he could pull it off. To this reader, it just overshadows what could have been a neat little horror tale. So, if you like pus, sores and things that go ooze in the dark, then this tale might leave you licking your lips.

For whatever reason, the publisher saw fit to include a bonus piece of short fiction at the end of the book. Entitled ‘Domestic Fowl’, it concerns a man turning into a chicken, as told by his best friend. The writing sucks you in so effectively that you don’t have time to debate the implausibility of the plot. Short and cleverly conceived, this story showcases Mr. Arnzen’s humor and pathos at its best. This is the best part of the book.

Buy it here

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