Friday, June 26, 2020

Book Review: From the Belly of the Goat by Donald Armfield

(Disclaimer: Donald Armfield has previously published some of my poems in an anthology he edited.)

From the Belly of the Goat is a collection of five horror stories with a bonus one in the paperback. Donald Armfield's style here is heavily reminiscent of pulp horror and adventure stories. Lovecraft is an obvious reference, but many of the stories are also two-fisted tales of explorers exploring mountains and deep oceans, fighting monster with swords, and journal logs of horrific discoveries.

“Ancient Giraffe Experiment,” the first story, is a bit of a standout in that it's more bizarro horror than the rest. In a series of documents and logs, it recounts a story of the discovery of a giraffe skeleton on the moon. When astronauts attempt bring the bones back to Earth, it unleashes a gas that has a horrific effect on the crew. This is an entertaining bizarro horror story that reads almost like a creepypasta. It's one of the best stories in the book

“Guardians of Cedar Hills” is probably the most Lovecraftian story in the book. A man named Mazin travels to northern Lebanon to explore a forest slowly being lost to deforestation. It's a simple, but effective story of making a horrible discovery in a mysterious place.

“Golem Sanctuary” is a pulp story of a cargo liner captain and his crew gathering parts of a statue from the ocean for a woman with a plan for causing Armageddon. This is a fun story that creates some great apocalyptic imagery. However, it wraps up a little too easily and quickly at the end.

“A Womb for Her Baby” is a pitch black horror comedy about two dumb brothers accidentally releasing a pair of trolls, who go on a rampage in their small Alaskan town. The female troll wants nothing more than a baby, and is trying to find a human baby to eat and give birth to. That sounds a little weird, so read the story if you want an explanation. This is a pretty fun splattery story that maintains the pulp feeling of the prior stories. However, this one has the weakest writing with some very awkward dialogue.

“From the Belly of the Goat” is another Lovecraftian tale. A man recalls his encounter with a strange tribe who create a sickness that emerges from goat bellies and destroys an entire town. This one is close to bizarro horror, but is more surreal with its nonlinearity and unreliable narrator. It's a solid tale for the title.

The paperback version, which I read, also includes the bonus story “The New Albino Race.” A trio of brothers exploring a mountain for artifacts stumble upon an underground race of albinos bent on world domination. This is yet another pulp-inspired, two-fisted tale that's a lot of fun to read and makes a nice addition for those picking up the paperback.

From the Belly of the Goat is a very entertaining collection of tales that mix a little bit of bizarro and splatter horror with nostalgic, pulpy horror, fantasy, and adventure. I definitely recommend this collection for horror fans and people who want some fun, breezy reads with a little edge to them.

(Update: An earlier version of this review mentioned multiple copyediting errors, however, these have since been corrected.)

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