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Literature / Human Resources

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Man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is.

Human Resources is an anthology of horror stories by Kent J. Starrett, released on October 30th, 2018. It is a collection of Surreal and Body Horror Science Fiction and fantasy, most based around the general theme of what it means to be human. One of the stories, 'Immunity,' has been adapted for narration on youtube.

This book provides examples of:

  • Adult Fear: School Day, about the revolution of armed children against their teachers and parents. Also Children of Light and Darkness, which revolves around inhumane surgical experiments on kidnapped children.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: Unless set in the far future, most of the stories don't specify when they occur. The car owned by the Gray Family in The Backwater Roads doesn't have air conditioning, Tricia in The Secret Game has a bunny-ears television set, and Anton in Les Amoureux doesn't own a television and relies on public transport in the suburbs. Only The Order of Creeping Things, are set in a specific era, one told through dated journal entries in the year 1997, and School Day taking place 20 Minutes into the Future.
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  • An Aesop: Sweet Tooth and Vestibulum Horridus are both Sci-Fi Horror allegories about the objectification of women. Les Amoureux is arguably also an aesop about expecting relationships to solve all of your problems.
  • Arch-Enemy: Dero, the omnipotent genetic engineer, and Nameless, the last pure Homo Sapiens in existence.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Tricia, in The Secret Game. Subverted in that the higher plane divorces one from their human emotions and minds until they are incomprehensible Eldritch Abominations.
  • Author Tract: Vestibulum Horridus, Sweet Tooth, and, arguably, Les Amoureux.
  • Baleful Polymorph: The Secret Game is themed entirely around this, as well as Human Resources. Vestibulum Horridus and Children of Light and Darkness touch upon it as well.
  • Bee Afraid: Bees are hateful antagonists in both The Order Of Creeping Things and Sweet Tooth.
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  • Bio-Augmentation: In Human Resources a deformed geneticist hunts down the last unaltered human with his surgically and biologically altered human monsters. Alternately, two posthumans in the titular tale are sympathetic to the human protagonist, and help him to escape Dero's hunt temporarily.
  • Black Comedy: The only kind, and most prevalent in School Day, The Backwater Roads and The Secret Game.
  • Body Horror: Present in virtually every story save School Day.
  • Bookends: The Backwater Roads features this most prominently, but Immunity, Vestibulum Horridus, and Sweet Tooth use it as well.
  • Butterfly of Doom: Nameless, the last human in the world, maimed Dero, the ruler of the world, in a past life. The inherited trauma has driven Dero to destroy the world and genetically alter the human race into something unrecognizable to prevent the same thing from happening.
  • Cardboard Prison: The dream-devils in The Secret Game are rendered almost comically impotent in waking life. If only sleep wasn't necessary.
  • Crappy Holidays: The Secret Game takes place in December, and is Kent Starrett's attempt at a Christmas story.
  • Creepy Child: All of them. Addressed in The Backwater Roads, in that the protagonist - Charlie Gray - is socially isolated for being a creepy child.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: All of them. But especially in Children of Light and Darkness.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Dero, the antagonist of the eponymous story.
  • Deadly Road Trip: The Backwater Roads. Immunity features one, though not as severely.
  • Dreaming of a White Christmas: The predators "that suspend the curtains of reality" can be seen in thick snowstorms, forming out of the whiteout.
  • Downer Ending: Arguably all of the stories, to some degree or another. Some of them, like Immunity or The Backwater Roads might be considered to have a Bittersweet Ending, but only From a Certain Point of View.
  • Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: Styrax and Spyrax are a married couple of gargantuan, asymmetrical post-humans in the title story, who treat the protagonist in a friendly if eccentric manner throughout the story.
  • Dissonant Serenity: The contrast of the cold, sterile holiday season and the surreal Mind Screw horror of The Secret Game.
  • Eye Scream: Prevalent, but most colorfully used in Les Amoureux.
  • Fantastic Caste System: In Vestibulum Horridus, the queen of an extradimensional species can breed anything she chooses to, provided she absorbs the right genes from native fauna. She breeds various offspring into existence, all female, whom each have a caste in the One World Order. Meanwhile, in Human Resources, Dero does the same thing to the whole world; leaving one last unaltered human whom he torments for fun.
  • Fantastic Racism: The marauding alien race in Vestibulum Horridus can't see human men as sentient, and set about lobotomizing, disfiguring and vivisecting them.
  • God Is Evil: In The Secret Game and Vestibulum Horridus, anyway. In The Order of Creeping Things, the protagonist has this viewpoint because only a malicious and insane deity would fill the world with so many insects and arthropods.
  • Gray-and-Grey Morality: There's never a clear idea of who's in the wrong or right in any of the stories, save perhaps in Sweet Tooth. Vestibulum Horridus makes especially good use of this trope.
  • The Grinch: Christmas gets a rather, well, honest evaluation in The Secret Game, which is set during Christmastime. The opening line even indicates that "Christmastime is an odd time for the Secret Game," which, instead of emphasizing the societally mandated task of human goodwill, emphasizes human insignificance in the vast and unfeeling universe we inhabit.
  • I am a Humanitarian: Sweet Tooth, which is about a woman who attracts all of her city's vermin human and otherwise with a rare genetic mutation that results in addictive pheromones, which by extension results in everything trying to kill and eat her. This eventually includes her friends, family, and herself.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Viciously deconstructed in Les Amoureux.
  • Medical Horror: Children of Light and Darkness.
  • Mercy Kill: the last Homo Sapiens in the world decides to kill himself to stop Dero, the genetic engineer who has destroyed the world with his surgically altered posthumans, from continuing to breed monsters and ravage the world endlessly in the title story. In Sweet Tooth, Marissa commits suicide through autocannibalism.
  • Mind Rape: The predatory beings in both The Secret Game and Vestibulum Horridus do this.
  • Neverending Terror: Tricia's fate in The Secret Game.
  • Nightmare Fuel: The Secret Game takes this phrase literally. Also:
    • In Human Resources, the level of pure, unfiltered hate that Dero feels for Nameless; taken to the level that Dero has literally destroyed the whole world just to torture him. The level of depth to which Dero's all-reaching sociopathy has reached is uncomfortable both in how vast it is, and how realistically it's portrayed. Dero's horribly scarred body and the uncompromising misery Nameless experiences are truly harrowing.
    • All of the creatures in Vestibulum Horridus, but especially the she-thing whose bottom half resembles a ballroom dress full of holes, all which are independent mouths. Trypophobia, anyone?
    • The descriptions of infected stitches, poorly pulled-off surgeries and people suffering from them lend Children of Light and Darkness an air of realism that lingers long after the book's been closed. The idea of being trapped with said disfigured children forever is equally unnerving.
    • The idea of decaying to the point of immortality, as portrayed in Immunity.
    • While Lord of the Flies and other works explore the idea of a Teenage Wasteland well, the descriptions of pregnant teenagers dying in childbirth and killing each other in vigilante fury in School Day are fairly upsetting in their realism; by contrast to, say, Children of the Corn and other wish-fulfillment fantasies of a world without parents.
    • Anyone who loves the holiday season will probably feel more than a little depressed by the sheer nihilism of The Secret Game.
    • Anyone who fears insects or arachnids had better avoid The Order Of Creeping Things.
    • Les Amoureux is both heartbreaking tragedy about losing your love for somebody and an Eye Scream nightmare fit to kill the faint-hearted in one sentence. That one of the lover's deaths can be considered analogous to a loved one dying of some terminal illness is even more devastating.
    • The Backwater Roads is a pretty vicious satire on nostalgia, the loss of childhood innocence and how abuse can destroy a person's life.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Used in Immunity, The Secret Game, and The Order Of Creeping Things.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Dero in Human Resources.
  • Our Monsters Are Weird: The Secret Game revolves around a girl forced to fight surreal dream-demons by warping her physical body in her own nightmares to combat them. At one point, one of the predators hunts through the girl's childhood home.....only to realize the house itself is the girl, which then begins growing hands from its walls and teeth in its doors and windows. Similarly, Human Resources and Vestibulum Horridus both revolve around antagonists with the ability to breed nightmarish morphologies into their offspring at will, and the endless parade of living nightmares they spawn as a result of this.
  • Paranoia Fuel: In The Order Of Creeping Things the main character becomes convinced that the insect kingdom is out to get him. In The Secret Game, the main character becomes convinced that reality itself is out to get her. Sweet Tooth features a woman openly assaulted by every man in the world for the purposes of cannibalism, which is, believe it or not, less frightening than the other two stories in that the threat is objectively real.
  • Preserve Your Gays: There are three protagonists in Vestibulum Horridus, two of whom are lesbians in a happy, healthy engagement.
  • Pun-Based Title: Take a guess.
  • Reality Warper: Tricia, as well as the dream-beings she's gone to war with.
  • Schrödinger's Butterfly: Some of the stories leave it up to the reader to decide if the protagonists are really being hunted by reality-warping monsters, an insect conspiracy, or a conclave of masochistic immortals, or if the protagonists are simply suffering from some form of mental illness or delusions.
  • Seattle: Setting of Sweet Tooth.
  • The Spook: Karen in Children of Light and Darkness, as well as Tricia's fate in The Secret Game.
  • Teenage Wasteland: School Day and, to a lesser degree, The Secret Game.
  • Terraform: What Mother Superior does to England in Vestibulum Horridus.
  • Transformation Horror: Children Of Light And Darkness, in a way that mirrors real world atrocities, particularly lobotomy, Unit 731 and the Albert Bandura Experiments. In a more speculative way, all of the stories except School Day feature this.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The Order Of Creeping Things is the diary of a man who believes the world's insects are conspiring against him. The Secret Game is about a girl who thinks godlike entities are hunting her in her dreams. It's left up to the reader if either of them are telling the truth, or simply insane.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Dero, as well as Karen from Children of Light and Darkness.
  • World of Chaos: Most of the stories take place in one.
  • World of Weirdness: As in all of Kent Starrett's works.

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