Friday, August 11, 2017

Book Review: Plasmid

Book Review: 'Plasmid' by Jo Gannon

4 / 5 Stars

According to the information posted to the 'Vault of Evil' website, 'Plasmid' started life as an effort by Stanley Long, a UK exploitation film director, to cash in on the popularity of the movie Alien. When no studio would bite, the screenplay by Jo Gannon was converted into a paperback novel by Robert Knight (the pen name of UK sf author Christopher Evans).

Thus we have 'Plasmid' (191 pp), released in 1980 from UK publisher Star Books. The great cover illustration is, sadly, uncredited.

In the small British coastal town of Oakhaven, the Fairfield Institute of Genetic Research, led by the brilliant (but megalomaniacal) Professor Fraser, is doing secret experiments for the UK Ministry of Defence. Experiments that involve mutating strands of DNA, meshing this DNA into plasmids, and then injecting the plasmids into volunteers drawn from the local prison population.

Fraser hopes that his work will lead to the bio-adaptation of man to undersea, or outer space, environments. But with the Ministry of Defence wanting results, and soon, Fraser's experiments have become more and more speculative..........and more and more ill-advised.

When Paula Scott, the young and rising reporter for Oakhaven's 'Metropole Radio 199 News' learns of a disturbing happening at the Fairfield Institute, she senses a potential blockbuster story in the making. But Paula finds her inquiries into the incident stonewalled by the Fraser and the UK government.

As Paula and the town of Oakhaven are about to find out, the incident at the Institute can't be covered up forever......because a mutant life form has taken up residence in the town's extensive sewer network. And its designs on Oakhaven's population are the ingredients of nightmares...........

'Plasmid' is one of the more entertaining sci-fi / horror novels to emerge from the early 80s. Author Knight keeps the plot rolling along with frequent episodes of splatterpunk-level mayhem, as well as some sarcastic humor (for example, glam-rock star Big Willy's latest hit single is titled 'Pull It'......!).

The setting of a resort town in the off-season, with its deserted streets, cold winds carrying drizzle, and dank, dark alleys, gives 'Plasmid' an effective atmosphere. Throw in a last sentence that's among the more effective I'd yet read in a horror novel, and 'Plasmid' is a book well worth picking up.

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