Hundreds of years after the great cataclysm, the Ministry of the 45th survive in a network of scientific bunkers. The last bastion of the old holy order, the 45th are bent on rebuilding the scorched earth and eliminating God’s enemies. The Ministry wages a war against the mutant topsiders that occupy the dead states of the Soviet Union of America. Defending the 45th are the Red Guard, genetically engineered soldiers who are programmed to obey through their lifebrand. Dr. Morgan is a serviceman for Unit 468 of the Red Guard. His lifebrand being medicine, Dr. Morgan is the longest surviving field medic to serve.
Terry M. West’s new novella, All of the Flesh Served, uses the dystopian trope to create a world pockmarked by Marxist ideology and tyrannical religiosity. Short and succinct, the novella reads like a perfunctory handshake after a failed first date. The amalgamation of religion and communism gives the reader something to chew on – a fleshy strip with just enough substance to satiate the hunger pangs. The novella’s underlying themes (religion, patriarchy, and eugenics to name a few) form the basis of West’s social commentary, i.e. Which god is the true God? Instead of allowing the reader to question their own ideology, West circumvents the opportunity by directly answering the question in the final sentence of his novella.
West promises us an intellectual post-read discussion, but after reaching the denouement, and witnessing West’s Truth as an emboldened lover, all intellectual thought transmogrifies into falsehoods. And this, dear friends, is an unfortunate error in an otherwise excellent novella.
Technically, the novella is messy and laborious. Once again the author refused to kill his darlings, resulting in verbose repetition and staccato dialogue. A character’s moniker is used ten times in under 100 words, the dialogue is antiquated and unnecessary, and sentences are lengthened without rhyme or reason. For example: “[T]his bunker caused claustrophobia in him.”
Why not write “this bunker was claustrophobic” or something similar? Why take the journey when you can take the path?
A specific, standout error might be viewed as West’s “writing style”. In fact, some might even lambast me for being overtly pedantic, but I have to stay true to my objective reviewing compass and tell it like it is. Instead of using the word “helicopter”, West uses a contraction in the form of “copter”. Yes, I am well aware that informal English can and should be used to create a fictional reality, but one does so sparingly and with meaning.
Despite the technical pedantry, West’s novella is a gripping little tale with enough substance to satiate your inner-Nietzsche. West’s narrative is intellectually stimulating and courageous.
In conclusion, All of the Flesh Served is a haunting soliloquy written by an experienced author with a stern voice. This novella’s diamond might be rough around the edges, but it’s still a diamond worthy of your fascination.
A polarizing read indeed.
Reviewed by Renier Palland