Before getting into this review, I feel like I should disclose that I have never been a huge Richard Laymon fan. There has always just been something about his work that I have found off-putting, and I really don't know why. That being said, I recently obtained a copy of Flesh. At first, I thought it was a new novel, but after checking the copyright date determined that it was originally published 21 years ago, and was being re-released with a snazzy new cover just in time for Halloween. Another thing that I really don't care for is when books are re-released and passed off as new - I have read so many books over the course of my life that new covers often throw me. I think I'm getting something new only to get a few chapters in before realizing that it's something I read a decade ago. But, I digress.
The action in Flesh picks up from page one, as a coed is run off the road while biking in a remote area of Weber Creek. She ends up battered and sprained, and the driver of the van that inexplicably tried to take her out is killed when he speeds into a guard-rail head on. More shaken up than injured, she is assisted by a local police officer Jake Corey, who realizes (while inspecting the wreckage) that while the driver is clearly dead, someone (or something) exited the van after the crash. He follows the tracks, but his search yields nothing. He does, however, come across a couple renovating a newly-purchased rural restaurant. He advises them to leave the area, and goes on his way.
Wouldn't you know, they return to continue their renovating hours later (in the dark, mind you). The hubby ends up going down to the cellar alone to check out an unusual noise (horror novel mistake numero uno), only to return a mindless zombie that blasts his wife's face off with a single shotgun shot and then proceed to eat her flesh. Officer Jake, who had returned to the scene to follow-up, happens upon the site of husband gnawing on wife, and ends up shooting the man in self defense.
A few days later, the officer receives a call from a friend in the morgue, who has discovered something bizarre while conducting autopsies. He confides in Jake that it looks like they may have an Invasion of the Body Snatchers scenario going on in their small town. And it appears as though their "invader" has escaped. They decide not to report their truly bizarre findings to anyone else. Paranoia and mayhem ensue. Oh, and the invader finds a new host. Surprise, surprise.
Frankly, I was far from impressed by this book. It was predictable and dated (granted it was originally published in 1988), and I had to force myself to trudge through to the end. While I can't really divulge any more without being considered a spoiler, most readers will have figured this one out fairly early on. Even if you take it for exactly what it is intended to be - entertaining, but not thought-provoking horror - it is sub-par. It had no psychological dimension whatsoever, and read almost exactly like a B horror movie, horny coeds and all. Although die-hard Laymon fans will probably want my head on a pike, I have to give Flesh 2 little stars.