Tyson and Lana, a young American couple, have come to South Korea to visit their old college friend Sam, who has gone back to the country he left at age two to teach English, and their former RA Steve, who’s hoping to jumpstart his professional life with a stint at a Korean company. They are joined by a lovely Korean girl, Mimi, who ends up at Sam’s officetel with the group after a night on the town. But the comfortable social group is threatened by a sudden outbreak of jiangshi – corpses reanimated after having lived or died in a bad or unsettled fashion. In order to survive, they decide they have to find their way to the US Embassy to be evacuated – but can they get through the ravenous undead and make it to safety?
SKIN FOOD is a dark and disturbing novella that is only made more disturbing by the cozy, sociable introduction we’re given to the main characters. A good third of the book is dedicated to setting up the action and introducing the characters, but given the short length of the book in general, it’s not too much time. Once the action gets moving, it moves vigorously and energetically, and the writing, in general, becomes sparser, more direct, more immediate, drawing the reader deeper into the action and fueling an adrenaline rush. This is the meat of the book, and it could use a bit of expanding – as it is, the real creepy terror of the book feels like it starts a bit too late and doesn’t last quite long enough.
What there is of it, though, is suspenseful, nerve-wracking stuff that would be fine material for a date-night thrills-and-chills horror movie. There are a few places where the book seems to go off on a tangent, but the events and the emotions involved in those incidents prove, as the story goes on, directly relevant to the plot. The characters are sympathetic and likeable, though perhaps a bit flat – Steve’s characterization is perhaps the best done, with enough background for the reader to understand his choices and really feel for him.
For readers looking for a quick but adrenaline-filled read with enough creepy horror and suspense to fuel a few nightmares, SKIN FOOD will fill the bill.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader