Like the overzealous Photoshopper who recently sliced the kneecaps off a Forever 21 model, Nina—the protagonist of Nick Antosca's odd new novella The Obese—is a photo retoucher who spends her days shaving hipbones off of already-emaciated models. "Any convexity in a girl's silhouette makes the mind think: FAT," she explains. And fat is the enemy—aesthetically, and soon enough, literally.
When a chubby houseguest finds an unflattering Gchat on Nina's computer (in which Nina says her guest is "gross to be around"), she gets revenge by forwarding some of Nina's incriminating work conversations to the feminist blog Jezebel. Fashion career = over. How will our dickish, fat-phobic protagonist recover?
But we never find out how Nina's personal and professional mortification might have changed her, because the stakes that the book spent 40 pages establishing are abruptly rendered obsolete with the discovery that New York has just been overrun by rampaging, hungry obese people. Nina's fear of fat is embodied on the streets of New York, and she and her skinny friends are just trying to stay alive.
The problem here is that Antosca doesn't quite know what to do with his premise. The book's early pages promise satire—and set up some interesting relationship dynamics—but then it's as though Antosca just says "fuck it," and wraps things up with a plague of fat zombies. As hungry obese people rampage through the streets of New York—reeking of rotten pumpkins—it's impossible to shake the impression that Antosca threw away a decent setup in the service of a cheap, mean-spirited joke.