Review: TENDER IS THE FLESH by Agustina Bazterrica (2020)

Genre: Adult Literary Fiction Horror
Year Release: 2021
Source: Audible

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: cannibalism, slaughterhouse machinations, humans as sustenance, sexual abuse, rape, blood play, violence against puppies

In the alternate universe in which this book takes place, a virus has made all meat poisonous to humans, except for that certain hunger. The rest is told from the perspective of Marcos, a worker at one of the facilities whose life is falling apart. Until he’s “gifted” with a female, and things get worse from there.

While low on plot and shock value beyond its conceit, the ending punched me in the face on a journey that is very frank with its depiction and high in its interiority.

I know I said the book is low on shock value, so let me go into that a bit. If you know anything about how meat slaughter works, this book is uncomfortably accurate in its depiction. But the discomfort is completely heightened by the language used to describe the literal people used as fodder.

The juxtaposition of the zoo scenes with Marcos’ daily life are so striking. If you like puppies, you will hate this book. It really zeroes on the horror people experience when pet animals are harmed as opposed to farm animals and, in this case especially, other people. There’s a haunting element to it, especially as the zoo setting has elements of the world before and during the collapse. Marcos also has opportunities to show his softer side, which, upon reflection, slowly build his unreliability as a narrator.

There’s also a sense of culture that comes through the work that didn’t get lost in translation. The author is Argentinian, and meat is very important there. I found it interesting that the perspective on raising humans for slaughter came from the focus of quality, and not a capitalistic sense of mass production at the expense of the animal (we have ruined cows, y’all). The literal dehumanization is very real throughout. Bazterrica does not flinch from it, which only makes the ending that much worse.

4 thoughts on “Review: TENDER IS THE FLESH by Agustina Bazterrica (2020)

  1. Pingback: December 2021 Reading Recap | Jo Writes Fantasy

  2. Pingback: My 2021 in Reading: That’s a Lot of Things, Jo | Jo Writes Fantasy

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