Written by: Matthew J. Barbour
Rotting Dead F*cks, by Matt Shaw, begins with a warning: “This is an extreme horror novel. It is not intended for those easily shocked or offended.” This certainly is a true statement, but in a world of Wrath James White, Edward Lee, and Carlton Mellick III, Rotting Dead F*cks is not the most extreme thing on the market by any stretch of the imagination.
For those unfamiliar with the author, Shaw is a relative newcomer to the horror genre, beginning his publishing career in 2004. He has been incredibly prolific. In the decade since he began, Shaw has written more than 50 horror stories. His most widely praised works have been in his extreme horror collection which includes: Porn, Sick B*stards, Art, and Tortured. While these tales represent stand-alone narratives (with the occasional crossover), the novels in the collection are instantly identifiable by their unadorned black covers and graphic content.
Rotting Dead F*cks is the most recent release in this series. The story follows a father, a doctor, and a psychopath as they experience the first days of the zombie apocalypse. Each of these characters delivers an account of the event from a first person perspective with the tale skipping back and forth to demonstrate how each narrative intertwines with one another.
The book explores one simple question. Who stands the best chance to survive the walking dead? Is it the irrational, but sympathetic father who faces the challenge head on to protect the daughter that he loves? Is it the analytic psychiatrist who is trained to deal with crisis resolution and empathize with those around her? Or is it the madman no longer shackled by the cultural norms and societal laws of the civilized world? The answer may, or may not, surprise you.
The zombies in Rotting Dead F*cks, nicknamed rotting dead fucks or R.D.F., are the standard fare. The monstrosities move slow, are incapable of complex thoughts, and seek only to devour the living. The reader follows the three protagonists against them. Gore, necrophilia, and pedophilia ensue. The last is by far and away the most disturbing. However, all three are treated with some class. Scenes pull away rather than describe the atrocities in graphic detail.
For those who enjoy the most extreme, the absence of graphic detail may negate some of the shock. Yet, it is hard to argue against this censorship as Shaw is intentionally skipping over a scene where a seven year old is forced to provide fellatio. No one needs to read that. Still, if this was Ryan Harding, not only would the scene be written in great detail, but instead of a young girl there would have been the severed head of a geriatric dog.
The biggest misstep is that this book has been written before. Rotting Dead F*cks offers nothing new to the zombie subgenre, which is already flooded with sub-par nickel nasty offerings. Even the opening scene, where our psychopathic protagonist has sex with a zombie, is nothing new or particularly noteworthy. There is an entire subgenre of zombie erotica (see Tamsin Flowers and Sommer Mardsen, among others) where not only is this common place but the descriptions of these acts are vivid and meant to arouse the reader.
This being said, I still couldn’t put the book down. Rotting Dead F*cks is a good horror narrative by an author that is progressively writing more and more engrossing stories. While perhaps not the most original, the tale will keep your attention and is worth a read.