Slimer (UK: Star Books, 1983)
Tagline: "One by one it took them...and
death was only the beginning!"
If you read my earlier review of Harry Adam
Knight's The Fungus, you'll know that I think
that old HAK was one of the better nasty
writers and that I had high hopes for this one.
To begin, that cover is priceless. Where
others might see cheap, lurid exploitation and
turn up their effeminate noses at it, I (and
probably you, too) see cheap, lurid exploitation and know I'm in for
some fun. I think it's worthwhile at this point to give you an idea of the
wonderfully lean, effective blurb copy on the back of this one:
On a deserted oil rig lurks the ultimate horror--
A genetically-engineered killing machine that cannot be destroyed--
And only six people stand between it...and you!
Good stuff. It gives up a bit of the plot but we're not about to get all
girly about something like that here at Guilty Pleasures. Let's get into
this one and see what good old HAK has in store for us this time
around. From the front cover illustration and the back cover copy, you
already know this is a monster story. And, really, isn't that why you
would have bought this book in the first place? So, before we get into
secondary things like plot and character, let's take a peek at our
"The face, if you could call it that, was long and smooth except for two
large round eyes that seemed horribly blank and lifeless. At the
bottom of the 'face' there was an eruption of small, squirming
tentacles which parted suddenly to reveal an impossibly wide mouth
full of triangular teeth."
Hmm. Intriguing, you say? I agree. Now to the plot. What we have is
basically six people floating on a life raft out in the North Sea after
their yacht went down...along with hundreds of thousands of dollars
worth of heroin the six had invested in to give them the easy life or a
piece of it at any rate. Out of the fog and darkness comes an oil rig.
Problem is, how do they get aboard? Unless you're a U.S. Navy
SEAL or a British SBS commando, climbing oil rigs in foul weather is
not recommended. Then...a crane swings out and down comes a
cage. Rescue! They hop aboard and ride up to the platform and find
themselves on a deserted oil rig. But WHO lowered the cage?This is
where HAK really starts having fun as he channels The Thing and
Alien and makes the oil rig as menacing as an isolated Antarctic
outpost or a drifting industrial ghost ship. And now that he has given
us a wonderfully claustrophobic setting, he builds upon his
characters which run the gamut from total asshole (Alex) to wimpy
addict (Mark) to selfish whiner (Rochelle) to morally ambiguous
poutypants (Chris). The other two, Paul and Linda, seem decent...in
fact, too decent to be involved with the others. It doesn't take long
before they realize that the oil rig is a biological research station and
something has begun to invade them:
"The awful tingling sensation was in her left leg now as well. She
saw it was covered with a black, glistening liquid and that a long
tendril of the same substance ran across the floor. She remembered
the woman with the black, slimy worms hanging out of her mouth..."
The interpersonal relationships are pure HAK. Alex, who has Mark
under his control by addicting him to heroin, is a sex-crazed pervert.
When Mark goes into withdrawals, Chris (his girlfriend) begs Alex to
give him heroin. But Alex wants sex. He tells her to take her shirt off
which she does with hardly any hesitation and when he tells her to
get onto her knees and perform oral sex on him, again, she does not
hesitate. Okay...so Chris acts like an extra in a porno film. Oh well.
Alex never gets enough and goes on a wild spree wanting to rape all
the women on the rig. That's when the scientists start showing up...or
something pretending to be them. One of them happens to be a very
sexy woman and Alex goes right after her. He ends up running from
her. Then he meets up with his own girlfriend and as he seduces her:
"Choking, and overwhelmed with panic, he struggled like a mad
man to break free but Rochelle held him fast. More and more of her
tongue forced itself into his mouth. It was like a giant worm burrowing
its way down his throat. He could feel it going down his esophagus,
slimy and cold..."
Poor Alex. Meanwhile, the other characters have watched a VHS tape
they found in a lab that points to the most grotesque sort of genetic
engineering experimentation. Soon enough, they meet one of the
scientists. They are in danger, he tells them. He and his team--some
thirty people, all gone now--created an artificial gene that would
invade a host body and make it adapt to any environment. They
called it the Phoenix unit. Now, in the body of a host it converted, it's
on a rampage and it only wants to eat, to survive. Not only does it
ingest people, but it turns out perfect copies of them, also absorbing
their minds. The novelty here is that most of these clones don't seem
to realize they're not the real thing and are as surprised as anyone
when the black genetic matrix goo bursts out of them. Now it's a
matter of survival of the fittest. The ending to Slimer is not your
typical blow-up-the-monster sort of thing, but something quite
unusual and unique (even funny in places) and I won't ruin it for you.
One additional note: you might want to check out Proteus, the movie
version of this novel from 1995. It's pretty good and manages to stay
pretty close to the book, though the ending is pretty weak in
comparison. Too much pyrotechnics and not enough weirdness.
Read the book first and you'll know exactly what I mean.
Pros: Fun from beginning to end. Cool monster. Atmospheric
setting. Wonderfully stupid one-dimensional characters. It ranks fairly
well on the Ghastly, Gruesome, and Gor-ifying scale.
Cons: Well...maybe the characters whose motivations are murky at
Overall: At a brief, fast-paced 156 pages, this is a near-classic nasty
with just about all the elements in place. Go grab a copy. Not quite
as good as The Fungus, but it still merits--
Four skulls out of five.
Our next Guilty Pleasure:
"Only death could live and move in that dark, still place."