Summary: Get a job. Get married. Buy a house. Cut off your hands and replace them with gardening tools. Dig a hole. Can you hear the worms calling? Keep digging.
Content Warnings: Body Horror, Extreme Gore, Attempted (Worm) Rape, Mentions of Suicidal Idealization
Beware. A few spoilers ahead.
Review: Before delving deeper into the current horror scene, I had no idea bizarro horror existed. Discovering it certainly instilled equal measures of curiosity and bafflement. I had seen some pretty bizarre plots in, say, television and film, but I never imagined seeing it in the genre book world. People got away with gonzo plots like this in the publishing industry? Without self-publishing? Really?
I knew I had to try this out myself. Looking through various sites for recommendations, I quickly selected He Digs A Hole by Danger Slater as one of my best options. For those of you who have reviewed the book in the past, you don’t need to worry.
I enjoyed the book. I reveled in the meta, the comedy, the gore and guts, and even the most sentimental scenes in the entire story.
Danger Slater knew exactly how he wanted to write this, and I couldn’t have been happier. Every time I thought the plot was getting too on-the-nose or samey, guess what? The narrator (presumably Slater himself) interjected with a few comments on exactly what I was thinking and how he was going to take this novella to another place I hadn’t thought of before. In terms of traditional storytelling, too, Slater’s prose also won me over. I felt exactly how he wanted me to feel. I pictured a buggy metropolis and a flesh tree so perfectly in my head that I literally could imagine myself as some silent ghost, watching the protagonists fumble their way through the world’s most mundane yet bizarre apocalypse.
Our characters themselves, Harrison and Tabitha, were not exactly special or new, but I managed to empathize with them well enough. Hell, I definitely understood their racing emotions, ennui, depression, and need to find something more in the quest for happiness. In the middle of late capitalism, all of it spoke very deeply to me. I appreciated Slater’s refusal to keep it subtle or pretentious either. It just made the themes and symbolism of the story more real to me. Almost like an extension of the storyteller behind a campfire or the world’s highest druid telling me a story when I’m ready to give up on life.
If you read my content warnings above, you probably guessed my one complaint.
Tabitha’s treatment in the book was definitely weird to me? In some ways, Tabitha stood in that familiar threshold of the scolding wife who refused to understand what her husband was going through, especially in the beginning. Thankfully, Slater managed to develop her character beyond that trope just like he developed Harrison beyond bored, unsatisfied white middle-aged guy.
But did the story really need a giant worm with a pompadour to try and insert his entire body through her vagina? Along with a small monologue from the worm’s perspective talking about how he was going to fuck her up and basically fuck her before turning her into a meat suit?
I found myself just as uncomfortable with Worm Woman inserting herself through Harrison, too, since both worms seemed to try and seduce their way to Harrison and Tabitha’s sides… As much as the story wanted to justify this happening, it just made me question whether it was there for as much shock value as possible. This was something I felt wasn’t deserved with other unique and bewildering imagery throughout the book where I felt it served a thematic purpose.
That entire subplot, which kind of took up a lot of the beginning of Act Three, unfortunately, made me dock a star. Nothing, however, made me upset that this was my first step in a bizarro horror journey. As soon as I finished the book, actually, I added two more from Slater’s backlist into my wishlist!
So, if you wanted to give the genre a chance, think about this tiny little novella. It’ll fertilize the shit out of your brain for a few days!
Rating: ★★★★ of 5 stars!