Mermaids are protected by the government under the Endangered Species Act, which means you aren't able to kill them even in self-defense. This is especially problematic if you happen to live in the isolated fishing village of Siren Cove, where there exists a healthy population of mermaids in the surrounding waters that view you as the main source of protein in their diet.
The only thing keeping these ravenous sea women at bay is the equally-dangerous supply of human livestock known as Food People. Normally, these "feeder humans" are enough to keep the mermaid population happy and well-fed. But in Siren Cove, the mermaids are avoiding the human livestock and have returned to hunting the frightened local fishermen. It is up to Doctor Black, an eccentric representative of the Food People Corporation, to investigate the matter and hopefully find a way to correct the mermaids' new eating patterns before the remaining villagers end up as fish food. But the more he digs, the more he discovers there are far stranger and more dangerous things than mermaids hidden in this ancient village by the sea.
Like a Lovecraftian version of David Lynch's Twin Peaks, Village of the Mermaids is a dystopian mystery that proves once again how cult author Carlton Mellick III brings the weird to a whole new level.
That is a cover blurb most authors would kill for, and it's entirely deserved. When the protagonist's disease - which is slowly transforming him into the human equivalent of silly putty - is the most normal thing about a story, you know Carlton Mellick III is firing on all cylinders.
Village of the Mermaids, the milestone 40th book from the undisputed master of Bizarro horror, is one of his more subtle tales. Unlike in his spatterpunk/horror-trash tales, here we have a very slow build from awkward, to odd, to surreal, to outright bizarre. While there is a monstrous taint of eroticism to his mermaids, it's the monstrous aspect that rises to the surface (pun intended) as the book goes on, with mutant strains of spider-mermaids and drill-bit mermen appearing on land and on sea.
To make matters worse, there's something wrong with the genetically engineered human merchow that are supposed to keep them fed. It seems they are no longer tasty enough for the mermaids; they are breeding like horny cows; and they are infected with an infectious zombie plague. Add to that an isolated small town with deep, dark secrets that only begin with bestiality and cannibalism, and you just know it's not gong to end well.
A perfect length to be consumed in a single sitting (preferably far away from the edge of the sea), this is creepy enough to hook you, mysterious enough to reel you in, and horrific enough to land you firmly in Mellick's bizarro boat. Great stuff.
Paperback: 136 pages
Published: April 1, 2013
Published by: Eraserhead Press