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.