The Slob has a premise that can be summarised in a single succinct line: a door-to-door saleswoman ends up in the house of a cannibal-rapist-necrophile and must figure out a means of escaping. Not exactly a groundbreaking concept for an extreme horror story; even the title recalls Rex Miller’s seminal 1987 splatterpunk novel Slob. But such a pat summary does little justice to just how engagingly twisted this book is.
The story takes a while to get going: discounting the in medias res opening chapter, protagonist Vera Harlow does not wind up in the clutches of The Slob until more than a third of the way through the slim volume. The chapters leading up to this point are put to good use, however. What could have been mere padding becomes a narrative that takes pains to set Vera up as the polar opposite of the uber-slovenly villain, with particular emphasis on her preoccupation with cleanliness
We learn that this trait began during her childhood when she visited a friend and realised the squalor of her own home (“There were places they could sit in their house… Piles of clothing that would never be worn didn’t comprise whole rooms… No dead or dying mice emitting shrill cries of agony, twitching in insensitive traps”); her troubled upbringing, sharing a family with a war-traumatised father and a sister with untreated bipolar disorder (“We were just entering the 70s and mental health and its myriad of deficiencies were still mostly a mystery”); the personal trauma of cleaning up the aftermath of her sister’s gunshot suicide (“I felt queasy looking at the mashup of tissue strewn about; there was even still one of Lisa’s eyeballs surrounded by meaty slop and wedged inside the partially cracked heating vent”).