August 2004






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Review by Mark Worthen
Review for August 2004

Mandibles by Jeff Strand
Mundania Press
Trade Paperback
208 pages
ISBN 1-59426006-0


SLATHERED IN GREAT BIG letters above the title are the words, "Horror! Thrills! Plus-size Ants." How could I refuse to read any book with that kind of recommendation? I picked this up, and even before I cracked the spine, I had the same feeling I had when I was a kid, slapping down my fifty cents, picking up my bag of popcorn and Coke, and waiting with anticipation for the projector to fire up and show me one of the classic Bs: "I Bury the Living," or "Dementia-13."


Nowhere on the cover does it say "great literature," nor does it say "read this book and take it very seriously." On the contrary, the back cover says, "Warning: COntains graphic ant violence, carnage, mayhem, and unpleasantness. Keep insect spray handy." You know what you're getting into when you look at the cover. The blonde in the tight dress running from the huge ant on the jacket promises a rollercoaster load of fun.


Does it deliver? Is it fun? Hell, yes! I couldn't put the damn thing down until I had to. During a very busy week for me, I sat down for a few minutes each evening to spend a few minutes with it. I found myself looking forward to sitting quietly with this horrific Irwin Allenish disaster story for a few minutes, and on the night I finished it, I was sorry.


Does it have problems? Sure it does, and I'll get to those in a minute. Did I care while I was reading it? No, not particularly. Like an Irwin Allen movie, it has a large cast, a set of characters that start in different places and come together during the course of the story. Some die. Some don't. You follow the characters until they either solve their problem or don't.

The kicker is, I didn't expect to give a damn about the characters. I figured I'd just sit on the sidelines while they died horribly one by one. But like a good horror film, I found myself mentally shouting, "No, don't go through that door!" or, "Oh, hell, he's messed up bad! Now what's he gonna do??"

As I said, a few technical problems: Too many POV characters for the length, not enough description, a few point-of-view shifts not enough rooting m in space or time, but rather too much in the HERE and NOW. It reads like a little like a screenplay that way, and that's really where the strength of the book is--it's an action film. It picks you up, moves you fast, and drops you at the end left breathless and sweaty like--well, like a rollercoaster.

If you like disaster movies, action, and comedy, you, like me, will find yourself picking up the book when you should be doing something else, and still sitting on the sofa reading it after your bedtime.

Like any guilty pleasure, it's pure and simple fun. And it's a page-turner. Do you like a good monster movie? Are you willing to overlook a few problems for the sake of the ride? Then this book is for you. If you enjoyed House of 1000 Corpses despite its multitude of problems, you'll like this. If you didn't, read the first chapter before you buy.

Five bites just for the fun I had reading it! I'll look for more of Strand's books.



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August 2004, Updated September 2, 2004

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