If you’re already offended, you wouldn’t survive
The first few chapters of this novella had me fooled it was an anthology. Each of the first chapters sets up the primary antagonists with a separate story, only for the later chapters to bind them all together nicely. The plot reminds me an awful lot of Mom and Dad (2017) (I’m a MOVIE critic, people!) except with women against men instead of parents against children. Even better, there is plenty of delicious schadenfreude in the form of characters that really rubbed me raw but eventually got their comeuppance.
You know, for a book entitled All Men Are Trash, each of the opening stories are way more relatable than one would expect. Yeah, it’s usually some douchebag guy pulling his usual crap but I think most men have dealt with the same shit at least once, and likely from another man. Just about everyone has fantasized about hitting some douchebag with their car, or bashing their boss’s head in, or have been so sick of gaslighting and double talk that they wanted to stab a motherfucker to death. Realy, if you can’t find yourself relating to this, at least a little bit, then you’re likely pretty guilty of all the bullshit that makes a motherfuck wanna bash your brains in.
The story makes a point of noting that this kind of random violence is the sort of thing that women and minorities deal with all the time. In this case, what makes it shocking is that it’s happening to white men. While this isn’t so uncommon it’s never heard of, I think we can all agree it’s pretty rare. Straight, white, cis, men, don’t have to politely brush off sexual advances at the risk of physical harm or death. Straight, white, cis, men, don’t commonly have to worry about their female partner engaging in violence because of an argument. Sure, these things do happen, but when they happen the aforementioned straight, white, cis, male is usually pretty shocked because it happens so rarely.
A lot of this is presented as an “if the shoe was on the other foot” scenario, as women have historically been the primary victims of the circumstances described in this book. However, I was astonished by how sympathetic the story remains with each male protagonist. Indeed, the three primary male protagonists are all presented as a different sort of typical male douchebag, and yet the story is quick to remind the reader they didn’t exist in a vacuum. In fact, I believe this is to drive home the point that these violent indignities are what women often deal with while showing its male readers what it’s like to feel that vulnerability. Unless we sympathize with the male protagonists, we couldn’t capture that level of vulnerability. And indeed, in horror, the best way to really make your audience feel a sense of terror is to have them empathize with the victims.
Note, it doesn’t excuse each male protagonist in their role of how they got where they are. There is still a deep level of schadenfreude as each protagonist opens up in a sympathetic way, only to act out and ruin any level of progress they’d made to that point. So, you DO feel bad for them, and can indeed empathize, but still kinda cheer when they get it. And I have to say, so much of horror plays one side of this dichotomy or the other, so it’s good to see a horror book that rides the line perfectly.
I’m not sure if I can give this book my ADHD seal of approval, though I feel like it was written for the ADHD impaired. Each chapter is short and the book is essentially easy to put down and pick back up again. Indeed, if it wasn’t I wouldn’t have finished it, I put it down so many times. So, while it didn’t keep my undivided attention like so many other books, it was perfectly formulated to hold my occasional attention. To be blunt, I’ve never picked up and put a book down, only to pick it up again, so many times. That really worked to its advantage with my poor attention span. And indeed, I deeply enjoyed the read. It was fun, well written and never bucked me from my reader’s trance.
If I could say anything else about it, I feel like it took a little too long to get going. Yeah, eventually it picks up and gets really greedy violent, but it takes a bit to get there. All I can say is that it was worth the wait. Once things really kick off, it’s downright bloody and fun. I think I can recommend this as a ‘Must Read’ with or without my ADHD seal of approval. It’s too much fun not to read, and is actually quite compelling among all the random acts of violence.
No spoilers in this review, I think. Just give it a shot.
- Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Blood Vessel’ (2019) - March 4, 2021
- Reed’s Horror Review, Castle Freak (1995) and (2020), a Comparison. - February 7, 2021
- Reed’s Literary Horror Review of ‘All Men Are Trash’ (2020) - February 4, 2021