Reviews > Published on October 14th, 2014

Bookshots: 'Consumed' by David Cronenberg

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review



Who Wrote It?

You can't spell engrossing without gross. And 'Consumed' is delightfully so... [It] has more twists than a penis afflicted by Peyronie's disease.

Depraved Dave Cronenberg, King of Venereal Horror, director of Scanners, Videodrome, The Brood, The Fly, as well as adaptations of unfilmable literary novels such as Naked Lunch, Crash, and Cosmopolis.

Plot in a Box:

A pair of tech savvy journalists (of the yellow variety) explore the death of a famous French philosopher from opposite ends, meeting in the middle like Lady and the Tramp eating spaghetti. Spaghetti made out of human flesh.

Invent a new title for this book:

Ingest My Left One

Read this if you liked:

The films of David Cronenberg, especially his earlier work (Fast Company not included); the novels of J.G. Ballard, Don DeLillo, and Vladimir Nabokov.

Meet the book's lead(s):

Naomi and Nathan: Journalists, technophiles and lovers, trotting the globe in search of bizarre stories to document. They spend the bulk of the book apart, connecting mostly through cell phones and video screens, but their individual pursuits become inevitably entwined, highlighting the six degrees of separation of the internet age. 

Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:

Brit Marling, star of Another Earth and Sound of My Voice for Naomi. She's got the range to cover the strength and vulnerability. And Adam Driver, that dude from Girls (which I've never seen) as Nathan. I like the cut of his jib.

Setting: Would you want to live there?

Japan: yes
France: no
North Korea: yikes

What was your favorite sentence?

Cronenberg gives us many beautifully constructed sentences, but this bit of dialog sums up the book's humor, themes, and sexuality nicely:

"So? My breasts are now radioactive. I'm not allowed to hug pregnant women for at least three months. What do you think of that? Journalistically?"

The Verdict:

For those unhappy with the direction of Cronenberg's recent directorial output, his debut novel is a return to the body horror themes that made his earlier work so engaging. Or should I say engrossing? Because you can't spell engrossing without gross. And Consumed is delightfully so. The canvas of the novel allows Cronenberg to indulge himself in ways prohibited in film, and he throws in every perverted idea but the kitchen sink transforming into a biological construct of phallic pipes and hot and cold running blood. These ideas include:

  • Body Identity Integrity Disorder and voluntary amputation
  • Cannibalism
  • Ekbom's syndrome
  • Experimental breast cancer treatments
  • Crooked penises and the digital printing of
  • Rare STDs
  • Sleep disorders and self harm well as some weirdness about North Korean hearing aids and the philosophy of sound design.

That's not to say Consumed is a retread, or even a distillation. It is more of a continued exploration. Cronenberg's obsession with the physical and its intersection with technology is taken to its logical conclusion here. Not in the extreme of science fiction storytelling, but in the realism of science fact. Consumed reflects how everyday technology has been thoroughly integrated into our lives, and how that integration has simultaneously expanded our horizons and made the world an infinitely smaller place.

Cronenberg's style is informed by the authors referenced above, and his writing is smart and incisive. The story is viewed through his typically clinical gaze via young intellectuals Naomi and Nathan, and has more twists than a penis afflicted by Peyronie's disease. There is much pleasure to be derived from its inventiveness, more so than... a penis afflicted by Peyronie's disease. Well, I can't vouch for that last one personally, but I can assure you that fans of Cronenberg's cinematic work as well as fans of dark literary fiction will be delighted with what he's produced.

About the author

Joshua Chaplinsky is the Managing Editor of LitReactor. He is the author of The Paradox Twins (CLASH Books), the story collection Whispers in the Ear of A Dreaming Ape, and the parody Kanye West—Reanimator. His short fiction has been published by Vice, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Thuglit, Severed Press, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, Broken River Books, and more. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @jaceycockrobin. More info at and

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