BOOK REVIEW: Slimer by Harry Adam Knight

Eagle-eyed literary enthusiasts may have seen a couple of brightly coloured paperbacks in their local bookshop recently, most notably under the horror section. Valancourt Press, an independent publisher responsible for rescuing forgotten grimoires from the gaping maws of hell, have republished Slimer and Fungus, written by Harry Adam Knight. Knight, a pseudonym for UK authors John Brosnan and Roy Kettle are a British duo that crafted an almost Lovecraftian thriller with Slimer, influenced by horror classics such as The Blob and John W. Campbells’ Who Goes There (the basis for the 1951 film, The Thing from Another World, and then reimagined in 1982 with John Carpenter’s classic, The Thing).

Expect an 80’s jam packed horror-fuel ride filled with imaginative, fast paced action from page one. The premise for Slimer is straightforward video nasty fanfare – landing in the classical Gothic horror trope of ‘protagonists trying to escape a haunted house’ type setting, but in this case the haunted house is an abandoned oil rig, out at sea. Two couples and a shady drug mule find themselves stranded in a life boat after their yacht sinks. After several days they come upon an oil rig, and things quickly escalate from gratitude to fear, as they find no-one aboard and a mystery involving sci-fi elements and uncanny creature feature shocks. When they board the rig, they quickly ascertain that no-one’s around, but instead of the mechanical type of machinery one would likely expect to fins, they come across top secret science labs and tapes eluding to a dangerous project. More worryingly, they come across piles of clothing with socks and undergarments inside the clothing, as if the person simply vanished into thin air and left everything behind.

The set-up and tension up until this point is electric. Brosnan and Kettle keep the pages fluttering at a breakneck speed (I believe I finished the book in two sittings) and this works well with action sequences that seem to have been plucked straight out of the miasma of testosterone filled 80’s action (ala Predator) but one could argue that this running and gunning mentality is also one of the novel’s downfalls, too.

Characterisation is kept at a bare minimum, (there’s the typical hero, the meek one, the last girl, the jerk and the scream queen) and we never really get under the surface of people’s actions. There’s really not any time to find out motivations and backgrounds for the characters, they’re simply trying to survive throughout the narrative and they’re in the predicament because they wanted to make money. Jerk guy is a jerk because he can be. There’s some cringing misogynistic sections that haven’t aged well, but there’s a really neat spin on Richard Dawkins’s selfish gene theory, which delves into some psychological aspects I hadn’t expected to encounter with Slimer.

The monster itself and what it does to people is interesting – I won’t spoil anything here but once again I was quite impressed with the direction it took. If you’re a fan of John Carpenter’s The Thing, you’ll feel right at home with Slimer – instead of the Antarctic setting, we find our protagonists on an isolated oil rig. Slimer is a nostalgic trip down memory lane to the era of exploitative schlock horror, and I for one was grateful for the ride. I have high hopes for the future titles to come from this publisher – so stay tuned for our review on Fungus!

Slimer is published by Valancourt Books and is available here.

Harry Adam Knight

John Raymond Brosnan (who wrote under the pseudonym of Harry Adam Knight – along with writer Roy Kettle) was an Australian writer of both fiction and non-fiction works in the fantasy and science fiction genres. He was born in Perth, Western Australia, and died in South Harrow, London, from acute pancreatitis on the 11th April 2005.

Reviewed by Anthony Self

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