The Sword Review, #7 (part 3), October 31, 2005

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“Flesh Curse” by Robert Barlow

Robert Barlow’s “Flesh Curse” is a cross between the sciences of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the mythological battles of ancient Rome. Barlow tells the story of a commander that we’re not supposed to favor. Maxus is out to usurp the throne from the emperor, and to better his chances, he’s created a beast to destroy his enemies with, but only through the sickest of experiments. Can Maxus claim the throne before the beast’s cursed flesh destroys itself—and Maxus’s only chance for absolute power?

Barlow doesn’t waste a single moment getting the story going; he opens up with the beast’s strange transformation, and by the next scene, a battlefield is spread before Maxus’s eyes. The fights that the beast go through remind me of the epic battles from both Roman and Greek mythology, using dragons and huge two-headed dogs as attention-grabbers, but bolstering enough blows and swings to create a movie-style scene. Barlow’s descriptions for the battle scenes are pleasing—almost grandiose—though they sadly don’t last long enough to make them truly epic.

I felt that the story would have had greater insight into the world within the words if it was told by the beast, Aldos, itself. Throughout “Flesh Curse” the reader gets glimpses of the compassion and human soul still within the beast, but these compelling sights are pushed aside by Maxus’s greed for conquering. By telling it through Aldos’s eyes, the reader would have had a better understanding of what it meant to be used so piggishly. While a manageable read, there was not enough emotion in the characters to truly appreciate the workings of “Flesh Curse.”