Creeping In Reptile Flesh (2008)

Writer Robert Hood
Publisher Altair Australia Books
Length 180 pages
Genre Short Story Collection
Blurb None Listed

Talk us through it

Robert Hood's latest collection boasts 13 short stories, one novella, and excellent cover art work by Cat Sparks. For the uninitiated Rob Hood looms large on the Australian dark fantasy landscape, generally in a fedora and pink shirt apparently, and is a master at the short story form. Opening a collection by the Author is a bit like putting your hand in a particular good lucky dip bucket, you never know quite what you are going to come up with.

Creeping In Reptile flesh has a common thread running through all the stories which I guess lead to Rob Hood's decision on which tales to include. I'm not going to spoil the reader's discovery of what that thread might be, determining what it means is one of the fun parts about reading the collection, but rest assured each entry in the book is of the normal excellent Rob Hood standard. Actually that's going to make choosing personal favourites later in the review real difficult, damn you Robert Hood!

Ready to put your hand into a lucky dip and find what razor blades of dark delight might await us?


"Dad's building it for me. He's gonna keep me locked in it. Tell him to pull it down!" - Greg

I love getting me a new collection of short stories, especially if the collection falls into the dark genre and is by a favourite Author. There's always that moment where you smell the newness of it all, flick to the table of contents to see what might be lurking, and generally having to face the tough decision of whether to read the collection from cover to cover or by selecting which title talks to you first. Well okay I generally start at page one and read my way through the book, but I still like to think of that as a decision and not a habit. An added advantage for me this time round was the collection turned up at the office in the early afternoon so I had time to appreciate the cover artwork as time entered some sort of slow spin cycle till I could get started on the home commute and rip into the first story. Since when did I say patience was one of my virtues folks!

First things first, Altair and Cat Sparks have really out done themselves with Creeping In Reptile Flesh. The book has a black spine with the title and Author's name in white writing, that always looks fashionable on the bookshelf. You can insert your own "little black number" joke in here as I've promised myself I wont bore the review reader with my feeble sense of humour in this review. The front cover is a sort of kaleidoscope of images Ms Sparks has conjured up from fossils etc to highlight the title and novella that leads off the collection. An added bonus, at least for this reviewer, were the fossil sketches that appeared at the end of each story in the collection. I just think that's a nice touch and a welcome surprise for the reader.

Creeping In Reptile Flesh kicks off with a novella by the same name. A political researcher heads into the bush to track down the story behind an independent Member of Parliament with some rather bizarre ideas on introduced species. What the researcher discovers is not what he is expecting to find to say the least. Absolutely fantastic start to the collection, I particularly loved the Brigadoon nature of the township of Mytabin, and if I'm not mistaken we got us some zombie action, though not as we know it Jim. I love a pun and Rob Hood delivers the best ones in Australian horror since the immortal town name of "Flow" had people chuckling during Howling III: The Marsupials. You will however have to approach Creeping In Reptile Flesh with an eye to detail, the Author has more than one story arc happening in the novella that goes toward explaining the final confrontation. The novella is a well constructed piece of writing that sets the tone for the rest of the collection.

Rob Hood follows up his opening salvo, for those still standing, with thirteen stories of menace and surprises as ordinary people face the folding of reality or the completely unexpected in everyday situations. An old dero and his dog Sheepdip face the unrelenting horror of a Lovecraftian menace, a young couple find that keeping mom isn't going to be as hard as they thought, an office worker discovers you simply can't cut it with a succubus, just to name a few of the ideas Rob Hood has in store for you within the covers of Creeping In Reptile Flesh. No matter your taste in dark literature the Author will have something to delight and amaze.

While Rob Hood does delight in bringing to the reader scenes of a macabre nature and in some cases full of gore, he also takes time out of his busy schedule to sex it up high, and heaven forbid even adds lashings of humour as a storyline dictates. A number of stories do feature "the wild thing" but I can assure the review reader that Rob Hood isn't going down the road to exploitation city, plot requirements dictate a visit to the bedroom on occasion. Guess I just blew Rob Hood's chances of any sales with the Rev Fred Nile and his minions, sorry about that one mate. For the moral majority reading from over in the States yes the whole of Australia is mortified at the Author's penchant for occasionally writing things of a sexual nature as well. By the way you can purchase the book via one of the links below and I'm prepared to state for the record that your only interest was due to the pictures or possibly evolutionist propaganda.

On a number of occasions while I was reading Creeping In Reptile Flesh I found myself chuckling out loud at a throw away line or the concept behind an individual story. Don't get me wrong here, I was chuckling in a good way, Rob Hood adds some humour to proceedings to keep you going between the darker toned tales. I actually laughed out loud when I read the quote featured at the start of the review, much to the amusement of my fellow train travellers. I would be very surprised if any reader can come away from either Rotting Eggplant on the Bottom Shelf of a Fridge or The Slimelight, and How to Step Into It without at least a grin on their faces. The Author simply nails that hardest of all hybrids, the horror/comedy.

For the Robert Hood fan base yes it's well worth picking up a copy of Creeping In Reptile Flesh due to three brand spanking new stories hiding away between the covers. The novella Creeping in Reptile Flesh and the two short stories Unravelling and Getting Rid of Mother. Added incentive, the contents cover a decade of the Author's career. So even if you have read quiite a bit of the content there's still good value in making an investment.

Guess it's that place in the review where I get to nominate my personal favourites from the collection. Since that means I can't go with anything around the vicinity of say fourteen stories I spent quite sometime deciding. Creeping in Reptile Flesh did all the right things for me, loved the diverse plot lines that come together at the end. Getting Rid of Mother due to the plot twist and one nasty final line that had me grinning ear to ear. And I simply can't go past Rotting Eggplant on the Bottom Shelf of a Fridge. Oh okay I'm also going to nominate The Black Lake's Fatal Flood due to the most unexpected of protagonists. Check out the collection to see if you agree or not.

Creeping in Reptile Flesh is available at Altair Books Online and yes they will ship overseas.

ScaryMinds Rates this read as ...

Simply a class act from the artwork to the stories contained on the pages. A must have addition to any horror fan's bookcase, it'll have you wanting to check out more Robert Hood material.