HORROR

Queen of Teeth

Strangehouse. Aug. 2021. 198p. ISBN 9781946335371. $999. HORROR
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DEBUTAfter the provocative opening, with Yaya finding teeth in her vagina, Piper takes what could have been a gimmick and crafts a brilliant, alternate-history dystopia. Yaya is one of many in her generation born as mutant chimeras because of a virus that’s property of AlphaBeta Pharmaceuticals (ABP); the company requires her to submit to monthly “check-ups.” Doc, one of ABP’s scientists, has been privy to the worst of the firm’s experiments. As Yaya and Doc fall in love, Piper effortlessly builds a fascinating world only slightly askew from our own. The horror rises as the teeth inside of Yaya begin to grow into an independent, sentient being (at once part of Yaya and separate from her); this monster is well-meaning within its worldview but has Godzilla-esque aspirations. Visceral, scary, and sensual, tackling issues of gender identity and marginalization head on, this fast-paced body horror creature-feature also follows romance genre rules, resulting in a thought-provoking tale that is both terrifying and sweet, even if the end of the world may be imminent.
VERDICT This is a fun page-turner on its surface, but as soon as readers pause for breath, the real-world issues at play will wrap their tentacles around them. Readers who like old school science fiction dystopias (à la Philip K. Dick), with a healthy dose of cosmic awe (as in Caitlin Kiernan’s “Tinfoil Dossier” series) and a few dashes of kaiju mayhem, will be in horror heaven with this mesmerizing, original, and breathtaking debut.
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