Review: Extreme Dentistry

Fearless monster killers have been a very popular trope in SF and fantasy lately, in a trend perhaps best exemplified by Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter sequence but extending to the dozens of nigh-interchangeable Buffy clones in leather clogging the Urban Fantasy subgenre lately. Hugh A. D. Spencer’s Extreme Dentistry seems to have been intended as a dark and mordantly funny satire of this sort of thing, and succeeds.

If you’ve ever thought of shopping malls as soul-sucking traps, this is the book for you. Humanity has an enemy/parasite: the Hive, the ultimate consumer-consumers, shapeshifters who zero in on lust and greed and feed on it, and are gradually assimilating increasing numbers of normal humans through the miracle of modern marketing. Mindless in its native form, the Hive can only think by patterning on humans, which it understands (sadly) well enough to manipulate.

Our viewpoint character loses his family to the Hive and discovers that the creatures who have been surrounding him at his shitty job have been literally feeding on his pain for years – office politics really is hell. Cured of the Hive’s mutagenic infection and broken free of its control, he is ready to join the war being waged against it by … Mormon dentists?

The tone veers from Grand Guignol to action comic to pop-culture satire, often within the same paragraph. My favorite bit was when the coalition of the willing (churches) discovers that Hive entities can be drawn irresistibly into prepared kill zones by displays of bad modern art. Along the way the author skewers nearly every other form of cant and pretension imaginable; Marxism, corporate-speak, organized religion, and academic politics are only among the major targets.

I should note that this book is pretty dark and strong drink even by horror-literature standards; there are scenes you are not going to actually enjoy unless you belong in a mental institution. On the other hand, I found it worthwhile to keep reading. On the gripping hand, I am not sure the premise can sustain the sequel hinted at by the handling of the ending.

On its own it counts as the sort of dubious tour de force that reminds me of Nine Inch Nails. That is, it is far from clear that what the artist is doing is actually a good idea, but the quality of his execution is impressive.

10 thoughts on “Review: Extreme Dentistry

  1. Interesting. I’ll take a look, if I’m not already backlogged with plenty to read. I’m currently reading: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Vento Aureo, John C. Wright’s Golden Oecumene, and many many other books. But it’s not that expensive on Kindle, so I’ll tag it and read it later.

  2. I’m appreciating the quasi-return of Raymond’s reviews. Your commentary on SF is always interesting!

  3. Thanks Eric; adding that to my Wish List ought to liven up my Amazon Recommendations email traffic … for a given value of “liven”.

  4. The trope, of shopping malls as sites of victimizations by possibly-alien swarms of who-the-heck-knows-what, is worrisomely widespread in the weltgeist. And tropes like this don’t get so deeply homed in the weltgeist without a _reason_, as far as I am concerned.

    We who go to the trouble to write, whether or not we reasonably expect our efforts to see print in the mass market, write for a reason. Our Muse is prodding us and we need to get something out there. Sometimes it’s really strange stuff that defies our understanding so we just make stuff up.
    But there’s something out there. We have to report in the blind, so to speak, transmitting to unknown receivers who may not be there. So we write science fiction.

    I can tell you that in my experience, _something really weird actually is going on our there_ and please be advised that it may be truth that’s stranger than fiction. Stories such as this one may be just another writer’s “take” on The Weirdness”. I guess I’ll have to buy this and see.

  5. This sounds like the sort of topic Esther Friesner would write – and that would be funny and not dark if she did so.

  6. Quick question — what’s wrong with what Nine Inch Nails was doing?

  7. I read a sample on Kindle… which was good enough I had to spend the few bucks to buy it. Then I read it in an afternoon on a day off. It’s not a big book.

    It is a very odd one. The interweaving of chronologically out of order scenes could be off-putting, but I thought it was done well enough to work. The execution was indeed surprisingly good overall.

    It’s a surprisingly human and emotionally tender book for one with such horrific scenes and themes. While it pokes fun at many things, including churches, it plays actual believers straight (the greatest threat to a certain former believers faith was in fact his church)- which in this day and age probably qualifies as transgressive, in a backwards way.

    I enjoyed it a great deal and look forward to the sequel – it wasn’t set up for a sequel so much as it needs one, as the story isn’t really finished so much as at a good temporary stopping point. The sequel with either be epic, or deeply disappointing. (I very much hope it doesn’t turn out to be a JJ Abrams- style build up and build up that falls apart when you realize it was all making-it-up-as-we-go-along.)

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