Tender is the Flesh
Author: Agustina Bazterrica
Narrator: Joseph Balderrama
Published: August 4, 2020
Audiobook: 6 hours 44 minutes
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Listened To: September 27-29, 2023
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars
Working at the local processing plant, Marcos is in the business of slaughtering humans —though no one calls them that anymore.
His wife has left him, his father is sinking into dementia, and Marcos tries not to think too hard about how he makes a living. After all, it happened so quickly. First, it was reported that an infectious virus has made all animal meat poisonous to humans. Then governments initiated the “Transition.” Now, eating human meat—“special meat”—is legal. Marcos tries to stick to numbers, consignments, processing.
Then one day he’s given a gift: a live specimen of the finest quality. Though he’s aware that any form of personal contact is forbidden on pain of death, little by little he starts to treat her like a human being. And soon, he becomes tortured by what has been lost—and what might still be saved.
This is a novella at just over 200 pages or 4.5 hours long for the audiobook and it packs a punch the entire time! I had read some about it so I hoped I had mentally prepared myself for it: and that worked! Tender is the Flesh is definitely not for everyone: It is not for the squeamish. It is extremely gory, brutal, yet also thought provoking. It also brings up a lot of emotions just because of the topic: Humans being bred, farmed, and processed as animals once were.
There are trigger warnings for just about everything: Be fair warned this would also be some spoilers, but I knew about these and didn’t feel like I was spoiled:
Gore and violence
Mistreatment of humans
What can happen to pregnant ‘women’ (mentioned in detail)
**Please note that I was most relieved to know about the animal instance because if I had not known, I don’t know how I would have reacted. It was still exceedingly tough to listen to and I very nearly skipped over that part. But I can say I did make it through. Let’s just say if I had not known in advance about this short section I would have wanted John Wick to make an appearance in the book!
In this dystopian world, a virus has spread across all animals worldwide and humans can no longer eat them. If they eat animals then humans will die. Now Cannibalism is mainstream and legal. Eating human meat is called “special meat”. We have Marcos our main character who works in a processing plant, so we see first-hand how humans have become our meat source. This could be considered slow moving, but Bazterrica seemingly covered every detail for her readers in regards to this world. Marcos wife has left him, and he works at the plant to earn money for his ailing father.
One day he is unexpectedly/illegally given a ‘gift’ of a female FGP (First Generation Pure), the most expensive kind there is. Marcos at first doesn’t know what to do with her. This is in essence the book. We have multiple instances of cannibalism described which left much to be desired for this listener. So much of this book was hard to swallow, but it was like a train wreck: Once I started it I couldn’t stop! I wanted to see what was going to happen, though I had an idea of what was going to happen about halfway through and that thought ended up being correct. What was mean for shock value at the end was not for me because I had it figured out. (Dang it- I hate it when I figure out the big twist!)
This novella is thought provoking in so many ways: Would YOU eat human meat!?!? Could you bring yourself to do it? How far has mankind fallen for Cannibalism to be so mainstream and not a big deal at all? Thinking these kinds of things can cause you to just lose your appetite.
There was one small side story that was abandoned I would have love to see expanded on: A conspiracy theory exists that the virus was faked by the governments so society could devolve and ease overpopulation. Maybe this small mention would be for a sequel? If that came to pass, yes I would read it!
The narrator is Joseph Balderrama and he did a fantastic job! There were a few humorous parts in the novel which I didn’t expect. He really brought Marcos to life for me. Just because of the general topic, this book must have been a challenge to narrate.
Will I read Tender is the Flesh again? No. Am I glad I listened to it? Yes. If you think you might want to read this one, please take heed of everything I said in this review. I only gave it four stars because I figured out the ‘shocking ending’ otherwise it would have been 5 stars. This is a book that will definitely stay with you after you have finished it.