Richard Shanti, a guilt-ridden slaughterhouse worker, has serious misgivings about his job. He's known as the Ice Pick - the calmest, most efficient bolt-gunner in Abyrne's history. Yet, in secret, he and his family are vegetarian. If the authorities find out, he'll be tried and slaughtered for sacrilege along with the Chosen - Abyrne's livestock.
Abyrne is a town in the wastelands that survives mainly on the locally produced meat from the slaughterhouse. Richard is the most efficient 'killer' there and has been trying to hide from his employers the fact he can't stomach eating the meat any longer, an activity that is regarded with suspicion and can get you killed. Now he hears of an uprising of people who want to save the cows and find a new way and he decides to risk himself and his family for what is right.
This book is gory, brutal and stomach churning and NOT for readers who are squeamish or of a nervous disposition. The author in the first few chapters describes the death process in the slaughterhouse in great detail which is pretty disturbing to read, and if you pay attention when you are reading it, you'll pick up on the subtle clues left by the author about what is happening. I realised the true plot quite early on and believe me, it makes it an even more horrifying read. I think what worries me most is that I could see this happening in reality after a global disaster and it really makes you shudder!
For those who are against the way the town is being run, there is nowhere to go. There are no real alternatives to doing what you are told and getting on with it or the evil man in charge of the town might just put you out of your misery. Some conform willingly, some reluctantly and the minority are starting to rebel. It shows the way all varieties of people in a small town think and what they endure to survive. It is disturbing on a psychological level as well as you wonder what you would do faced with their circumstances. I suspect most of us would conform, too afraid to step out of line. I'm pretty sure I would.
Yes Meat is gruesome if read purely as a horror story but it does make you think about how meat arrives at our dinner table. Not liking most vegetables, I have little option but to eat meat and pasta but I suspect the brutality in this book might turn a few people vegetarian!
The one thing that stops me from giving it a higher rating is the way the plot slows down in the middle and starts focusing more on the inner workings of the minds of the main characters and Richard's journey of self discovery. It is still interesting but I feel a bit more action was needed at this point just to keep things moving along. I did like the development of the good and evil characters and the overall plot was intriguing. I also enjoyed the ending.
This is a horror story with an environmental message running through it and was the second book by the author I read and enjoyed. I recommend it to fans of horror.