Flesh Eaters by Mark Trimeloni (Sci-Fi/Horror novel, 1997)
This self-published first novel has its problems, but also features several unusual and interesting features.
In the early stages of their planned conquest of Earth, a bunch of aliens of the body-snatching variety have chosen a rather unusual first target: a community of dedicated nudists. More than a clothes-optional resort, this is a full-blown town in which nobody wears more than their skin (except in very cold weather). It’s an interesting idea that the aliens (who also are cannibalistic) would choose a group of cultural outsiders as their first targets for takeover. In part, this reflects the author’s personal interests–Trimeloni is a practicing nudist and quite consciously has set out to show a group of people who are ordinary folks, except that they prefer to go fabric-free whenever possible (oh, and yes, some of them are now possessed by some ruthless non-humans from outer space).
The book focuses on a small group of adolescent-aged friends who become aware that something is very wrong in their otherwise beloved town of Copper Bend. One of them, Tommy, stumbled upon the aliens’ plot and was silenced a year ago. Now his ghost returns to occupy the body of Becky, the little group’s lone girl, intent on informing his buddies of the danger and rallying them to oppose a ritual that will vastly increase the aliens’ power.
This ghostly body-swap, with Becky’s spirit consigned to a very original version of the Land of the Dead, proves a most interesting secondary plot. In neither a conventional heaven nor an unchanging/permanent hell, she finds herself struggling through a kind of rusting post-industrial wasteland where even the dead aren’t safe. Indeed, a nightmarish mist thing stalks the inhabitants and, if given the chance, will eat your soul–sending you somewhere else? It’s an appalling yet fascinating conceit.
As for the aliens, the people they inhabit retain some awareness of their past existence–this fades with time, though at least one feels some regret at the prospect of sacrificing her offspring to the cause. But they mostly allow themselves to be seduced by their new power and the prospect of even more to come.
The Flesh Eaters’ cannibal habits (they have a particular preference for the tender meat of prepubescent children) are at once an effectively horrific element of the story and something of an unresolved problem for the plot. Even with the occasional (clothed) outsider to serve up as a meal, you’d think more of the local people would begin to notice how many youngsters are disappearing and raise hell about it. True, the aliens have thoroughly infiltrated the town police force, which helps contain things. But it just seems to me the town-folk on the whole are a bit too unaware for belief.
A series of costly battles between the 12-year-olds (allied at last with a town-dump-dwelling bum who’s more than he seems) and the aliens (painfully including some parents of the little band of heroes) lead up to a climactic and explosive ending.
The local supermarket owner (also one of the leading aliens) makes for a suitably creepy villain, but I would’ve liked to see more about how this nudist community (nestled amid and in necessarily frequent–even routine–contact with the wider clothing-wearing culture that surrounds it) functions. And potential readers should be advised that, besides the unsettling main plot elements, there are some disturbingly kinky goings-on here (a character masturbating while fantasizing about his own mother comes immediately to mind). The writing was a bit clumsy at a few points and better in others. As mentioned above, the blissful lack of awareness around town didn’t work for me.
In sum: Flesh Eaters is a flawed but somewhat original effort. Still available from Amazon.