Meat, by Dane Cobain
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Today, I’m excited to be reviewing Meat, a suspenseful horror novel by Dane Cobain.
So, if you’ve got your favourite drink to hand and are all settled in, let’s begin.
After losing his veterinary practice and his family, Tom Copeland goes to work at Sunnyvale, a cruel factory farm, with the entire place being ‘designed to run like a machine.’ Tom soon learns that this is not the type of place where one asks questions, or makes waves. However, the farm animals have been acting stranger as of late and Tom intends to find out why.
Before long, a mysterious infection spreads across the farm, jumping from species to species, infecting hundreds of thousands of animals. Can Tom and his new colleagues survive this hellish outbreak, or will they too succumb to the terrible disease rampaging through Sunnyvale?
Tom Copeland (also known as ‘Doc’) lost his veterinary practice and subsequently his family after he was forced to steal drugs from storage. Now he feels alone, eager to start a new job working at Sunnyvale Farm. From the get go, Tom seemed a rather private man, keeping himself to himself. He clearly preferred animals to people and, perhaps unlike the other Sunnyvale workers, showed a great deal of compassion for the animals he was to inspect and treat. At first, he appeared almost innocent and naïve to the sadistic ways of the factory farm, although over time, he proved determined to survive at all costs once the infection began to spread. I found myself admiring Tom because he always looked out for those around him, caring for those in need and showing a great deal of empathy for other’s pain, even to those who might not deserve it.
In contrast, John MacDonald, CEO of Sunnyvale was a more strict and aggressive man, who saw the animals on his farm merely as ‘numbers on a spreadsheet.’ I took an instant dislike to him and his selfish and unpredictable ways. He seemed to care for nobody-else save for himself. However, over time, I feel as though he redeemed himself and began to show a greater deal of empathy toward others, especially when working in close quarters with Tom to handle the outbreak situation.
The next character to stand out was Big Jim, a fiery Scottish man, with a strong accent and an intimidating presence. Big Jim often led by example throughout the story, taking calculated risks where possible, to try and maximise his chances of survival. Although at first he appeared hard and callous, over time, he too appeared to change, demonstrating a more caring and protective side toward others. In addition, he was courageous and resourceful, really pulling his weight in a true time of crisis. I must admit that over time, he became one of my favourite characters.
Finally, I would like to explore Sunnyvale Farm as a character in its own right. As soon as the farm was introduced, there was a feeling of intense desperation to it. The author describes it as a place with a great stench of fish, ‘sweat and fear, blood and bile.’ The immediate impression given is not of a nice, friendly environment, but one of pain, heartache, and general misery.
There were numerous positive aspects to Meat, which I have detailed below in a bulleted list.
- Firstly, the author paints the picture of a mysterious and secretive factory farm, where people are supposed to do their job, not make friends, and to – above all – toe the company line.
- Secondly, by altering the narrating character throughout the story, we get multiple perspectives (and memories) of Sunnyvale Farm shown to us, which provides a broader picture of its inner workings.
- The author does a superb job of gradually building tension and foreshadowing events to come.
- The problems in the story mount up slowly – gradually – forcing the lead characters to make increasingly difficult decisions.
- Furthermore, the author evokes a real sense of hopelessness and desperation as the infection spreads throughout the farm, endangering the lives of both animal and human.
- Finally, I thoroughly enjoyed the story’s ending, given how nature seemed to restore itself to a previously balanced state, having eradicated the humans who had wreaked much destruction on the land.
While reading Meat, I came across five quotes which stood out to me.
1) ‘Never criticise Sunnyvale. The walls have ears.
As one of the first things Tom hears upon joining Sunnyvale’s ranks, this made me shudder. It suggests that Sunnyvale’s employees were constantly being watched, giving off a very sinister vibe.
2) ‘Sunnyvale was like another country, some far off land in which no-one ever had to deal with consequences. What happened in Sunnyvale stayed in Sunnyvale and people’s personal lives were irrelevant – work and play didn’t mix in a place like Sunnyvale.’
3) ‘It’s like a cult – creating a culture of fear and suspicion.’
4) ‘There was a madness in the air, in the water and under the ground. It spread from bird to beast, bringing pain and misery and misfortune.’
5) ‘Nothing can run so far that the past can’t catch up with it.’
All of the above quotes hint at the true nature of Sunnvale Farm throughout the story, that it is a place of desperation and fear, where one does as they’re told and isn’t permitted to ask questions. Such quotes did a wonderful job at emphasizing the subconscious sense of dread that the author was trying to create.
Overall, I found Meat to be a chilling tale of animal cruelty.
Themes included surveillance, survival, a sense of dwindling humanity, teamwork, and – in a sense – retribution.
My Rating: 5 stars.
Recommended to: horror lovers, who appreciate the exploration of important topics such as animal cruelty in factory farms.
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