First published back in June of 2011, self-publishing author Steve Belz’s debut release was the short ebook offering ‘Lice’.

DLS Synopsis:
When forty-two-year-old Linda Hall brought the guy back to her place, she didn’t think it would be a problem.  But then when Linda’s eight-year-old daughter, Nancy, woke the two of them up, he couldn’t have upped and left any quicker.  However as Linda goes through to see what her daughter is crying out to her for, she’s met with a sight that sends her screaming.  Her daughter had been home for two weeks following an infestation of lice in her hair.  The thought of lice clung to her memory as she stood there staring down at her young daughter, as a mass of pale maggots writhed across her face and poured out from the young girl’s open mouth.

Elsewhere third-grade teacher, Joni Miller, was running late for her class at Rosewood Elementary again.  It would be safe to say that the small school hadn’t exactly attracted the best calibre of students.  So much so that it would often take a little cocaine every now and again in order for Joni to get through the week.  And today was already turning out to be a bad one for Joni.

But when the school’s headmaster, Adam Greene, arrives at the decaying shell of a school, things are about to turn pretty nasty for everyone there.  Adam has an itch on his calf that no amount of scratching seems to cure.  An itch that’s beginning to turn into a stinging pain travelling up his leg.  But it’s when he’s in the safety of his office and he finally lifts up his trouser leg that the true horror of the situation comes crashing down on Greene.

Out from the suppurating flesh of his calf bursts a mass of mutated lice; hungry for flesh and ready to devour each and every one that comes there way.  Rosewood Elementary is no longer a place of learning, but a nightmarish hell of screaming death and bloodshed…

DLS Review:
Belz’s self-published short story is a weirdly surreal pulp offering, with very little in the way of structure or purposeful direction.  Okay, so by the time we get to the end, the overall plot does finally come to light.  And credit where credit’s due – it’s not a half-bad idea for a short tale.  However, the roundabout way in which Belz reaches this point, with very little in the way of guidance or linkage, makes for a particularly disjointed read.

Putting the overall lack of structure to one side, it has to be said that Beltz’s writing is actually of a reasonably accomplished standard.  Indeed, Belz can paint a moderately convincing picture of what is going on; displaying a fair skill in word selection, whilst getting to the real heart of the matter with the pulp-ish mayhem, equipped with plenty of energy and enthusiasm for the unavoidable carnage.

Sadly, the lice themselves are barely defined at all.  We know they’re lice and we know they’re a flesh-eating mutation – but that’s about it.  Not once does Belz offer up any real descriptive details of the little beasties, or indeed indulge in the visceral gore of the lice at work – other than with a broad offering of the creepy-crawlies devouring their unfortunate prey.

As such it’s a purely pulpish short that’s missing the vital organs that are required for a tale of this nature.  Although it’s got all the right ideas behind it to make for another great bit piece of ‘Creatures vs Mankind’ fiction – it lacks in punch, the graphic gruesomeness and tightness to the overall structure.

Saying that, Belz does reel in the story at the end; bringing together all of the scattered storylines for a delightfully downbeat and uncaring conclusion that is finally verging on pleasing.

The short ebook runs for a total of 28 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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