Little Mutilations: Three Body Horror Novellas
Jess Landry, Sofia Ajram, & Nadia Bulkin
Crystal Lake Publishing (April 25, 2023)
Review by Elaine Pascale
It is probably unnecessary to announce that I loved an offering from Crystal Lake Publishing. I have read most of their catalogue and have yet to be disappointed. Little Mutilations is Book 7 in Crystal Lake’s Dark Tide Series and has fantastic cover art by Ben Baldwin. The three novellas have distinct settings and tones, but the theme of body horror connects them.
The book starts with Jess Landry’s “The Night Belongs to Us.” Laura is concerned about her mother who has a habit of disappearing when she is seeking a high. Laura is the adult child of an addict; as such, her desire to rescue her mother surpasses any bitterness she may harbor. It also exceeds her grasp of the futility of the mission. During her search, Laura encounters the mysterious Cee who introduces her to an urban underworld that is ruled by a being called “Mother.” Landry’s tale is gritty with a cool, neo-noir feel.
The second novella is Sofia Ajram’s “Acid Bath.” Luca and Priya are participants in medical studies; they make money “pigging,” or being Guinea pigs, to fund their dreams of becoming filmmakers. This story amazed me in that it had an abundance of themes but was not overwhelming to read. Ajram deftly weaves artistic competition and ownership with issues of gender, self-perception, and the social lens. “Acid Bath” is as entertaining as it is thought provoking.
The final novella is “Your Next Best American Girl” by Nadia Bulkin. The story centers around beauty pageant contestant, Veronica, who discovers three open sores on her arm. Pageants are a place where skin is evaluated, and a contestant’s value relates to her being flawless. While women are accustomed to constant body judgement, beauty queens experience an amplified scrutiny. This stress inflames Veronica’s condition. I loved the characters in this story and the meanness of the backstage behavior. The toxic rivalry serves as a parallel horror to the mysterious sores.
I highly recommend Little Mutilations for its unique, well-developed, and well-written approaches to body horror.
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