John Brosnan a.k.a. "Harry Adam Knight" impressed me immensely with Carnosaur. I liked that novel so much I curse Roger Corman for deviating as much as he did for his 1993 movie, essentially jettisoning the entire plot. But that's a rant for another day. Anyway, I became somewhat interested in other Brosnan novels written under the Knight pseudonym. My first target was The Fungus, which I got based solely on the cover, and, in fact, took great pains to get a copy of that version specifically (the Star version). Alas, I found it slightly wanting. Not terrible, really, but a bit dull. After rampaging dinosaurs, killer fungi just seemed kind of passe.
I knew of Slimer. But for some reason, out of what I called the "Knight-Star three," it was not one I wanted initially. However my ex, who read it, recommended it. Since he hadn't been wrong about Slime (whose synopsis I still have to finish), I decided to give it a try. After a few snafus involving being accidentally mailed The Shrine by Robert Faulcon for some reason, I finally acquired a copy. And I have to say it just sidelined Carnosaur into my second favorite Brosnan novel.
Something roams the white halls. Whatever it is, it accuses "them" of preventing it from feeding. And it's none too happy about it...
Meanwhile, six people are marooned in a life raft after their yacht sinks in the ocean. Our characters consist of protagonist Paul Latham, his girlfriend Linda Walker, Alex Rinaldo, the lone American in the group, Paul's best friend and the yacht's owner Mark, Mark's girlfriend Chris and Alex's girlfriend Rochelle. Yeah, three couples. They're screwed for the time being because the boat sank while they were running dope and heroin and nobody called for help because they were too scared about going to jail and now they're stranded in the ocean. Idiots. Well, you'll all pay for your stupidity, all of you! Mwahahaha!
Right off the bat, Alex is the most unlikable and antagonistic character. He treats Rochelle like crap and makes passes at Linda right in front of Paul, and withholds his heroin stash from junkie Mark, even whilst Mark is going through painful withdrawal symptoms, and forces Chris to suck him off in exchange for her boyfriend's fix. What a douche. If you don't want Alex to die horribly the minute he appears and starts giving Paul shit for no discernible reason, then the novel goes out of its way to make you.
And speaking of Mark's heroin problem, Paul is unaware of it. Somehow Mark hides it from him. Paul apparently draws the line at actually using the drugs they were smuggling. Beyond this seeming hypocrisy, Paul is the sole likable character in the novel. As I've said, Alex is a jerk of the highest order, Linda and Chris are whiny, useless clods, Mark is a junkie who shows signs of intelligence and likability early on but grows more and more dickish as the story progresses (mostly due to his heroin addiction admittedly) and Rochelle, while not as bad as her boyfriend, is still basically just a female version of Alex. Only Paul seems completely resourceful, likable and at all intelligent.
But I know what you're thinking. Where's the slime in a novel called Slimer?
Well, eventually, the six idiots stumble across an oil rig belonging to a company called Brinkstone, which none of them have ever heard of. There's no way to climb up so they shout for help. In response, a crane lowers down and lifts them up but once aboard the rig, they see no one around. There isn't even anyone in the operator cab for the crane, and upon investigating, Mark finds some odd blackish slime and empty clothes, but nobody believes him, apparently not finding the question of where the crane's operator suddenly went to at all relevant.
They discover the rig is actually a front for a top secret research laboratory but again can find no one around. Just more empty clothes. Now they begin wondering where the clothes' owners went. Took you jerks long enough. In addition to all the empty clothing they also find a giant, empty aquarium and some discarded and mysteriously unfired M16s, which they appropriate; Alex is the first to grab one, and wary Paul gets one for himself just so he's on even footing with the American, who he doesn't trust.
That night, as they sleep in different rooms, each couple to a bedroom, something big and nasty tries to smash its way into Paul and Linda's room. Paul unloads his M16 into it and drives it off, and then they chase after it, intent on finishing it off, whatever it is. They find no blood despite the fact Paul is positive he shot the thing thirteen times.
Here, they suddenly bump into an apparent survivor, Dr. Gordon Shelley, who warns them to leave the rig as soon as they can. Of the creature, he says its name is "Charlie" and that it is "under control" now. He promises to explain more in the morning and everyone goes to bed, but in the morning, Shelley is missing and although the gang attempts to take his advice and leave, they find the rig's compliment of speedboats have been sabotaged, and so has the radio...
Paul and Mark find a room filled with video equipment and discover various tapes (ah, the 80's) pertaining to something called the Phoenix Project. No time to look at them now, though, because here comes scientist Dr. Carol Soames with more dire warnings about Charlie and the Phoenix Project. She gives the two men much the same spiel Shelley had - that Charlie is "under control" - before needing to vamoose because "Charlie is coming." Even more than Dr. Soames' sudden departure, Paul is confused because "Carol Soames" was the name on an ID badge clipped to one of the discarded lab coats the group found...
Meanwhile, Alex is doing his damnedest to prove that a genetically engineered mutant isn't the only monster loose on the rig. Mark's heroin withdrawal symptoms are getting worse and worse, and Chris begs Alex to give her ailing boyfriend some of his stash. Alex agrees, but only if she'll give him a blowjob. Cue sleazy sex scene. A disgusted Rochelle heads off and finds the lab with the big aquarium in it... except this time it isn't empty. This time, the body of Dr. Soames is floating in it! And she isn't quite dead, because some sort of blackish, slimelike tentacles are coming out of her mouth...
Once Alex and Chris', er, "transaction" as been completed, Alex wanders off and encounters Dr. Soames, last seen at the bottom of the aquarium (no sign of Rochelle). Having a one-track mind, the American immediately begins putting the moves on the good Doctor despite her insistence he keep away from her.
Never having heard that "no means no," Alex tries to rip off Soames' clothes... and is rewarded with the horrifying sight that some of her skin comes off with them, as though clothing and skin are fused. In reflex, he stabs "Soames" in the breast and runs off to alert the others. Everyone (except Rochelle!) comes running but of course the stabbed woman is gone. Alex insists he killed her but they don't know where the body went. Oddly, the fact Alex, as far as he knew, essentially murdered an innocent scientist isn't gone into much.
In fact, if I have one criticism of this novel, it is the Alex character. It isn't the fact he's an American (I am an American and don't care that the lone American character is portrayed badly). It's more the fact the other characters allow him to be such a creep with impunity.
From the very first chapter, he is questioning Paul's decisions, insulting him and Mark, making passes at the girls and making veiled threats - and a few not-so-veiled ones - and the most Paul can seem to do is tell him to cut it out. Beyond this, the other characters just let him do whatever the hell he wants. He has a knife, yes, but come on, people! There's five of you and one of him! I'm ordinarily a pretty pacifistic guy who can find it in my heart to show mercy to even the nastiest people... but when they're so dedicated to sowing dissent and strife amongst the group they'd make Dr. Smith shake his head in disgust, well, toss his ass overboard!
Sorry, it just bugs me that the other members of the group, by and large, just let Alex get away with being so rude, disgusting and violent. Yeah, he eventually gets his, but this doesn't explain why our supposed hero Paul is so tolerant of such a blatant and dangerous threat to his leadership and his life.
Anyway, they encounter more people, each one explaining a little bit about what happened before having to suddenly run off because "Charlie is coming." Things become even weirder when a third survivor the group meets, security guard Ed Buckley, turns into Charlie, a huge, sharklike monster with tentacled hands lined with shark teeth, attacking the group before being driven away. After this, Paul and Mark consult those tapes and discover that the Phoenix Project turned an ordinary great white shark (the original inhabitant of that big aquarium) nicknamed Charlie by the scientists into a genetic freak which can shapeshift, turning itself into slime and absorbing the minds and bodies of its victims and also occasionally taking their form to trick more victims.
The consumed people are still conscious inside of Charlie's brain, but mostly entirely helpless; only the most strong willed (such as Dr. Shelley) can exert themselves as the dominant personality long enough to use Charlie's shapeshifting abilities to turn its body into theirs, so they can try and warn the others... but Charlie always regains control.
Elsewhere, Alex returns to the room he's been using to find the heretofore missing Rochelle in his bed, buck naked and seemingly quite horny for him. She gives him a French kiss to end all French kisses, her long, black, slimy tongue emerging from her mouth to promptly force itself into his mouth and down his throat...
Chris ends up getting attacked by Charlie in the form of Alex. In a darkly amusing moment, Alex's supreme douchebaggery proves so formidable that his absorbed consciousness actually briefly takes over the monster's! Then comes probably the most horrific scene in the novel, as the Alex-monster puts Charlie's shape-shifting abilities to good use to make his dick grow bigger, and he uses it to rape Chris to death, impaling her insides with his giant wang of doom. After this, though, Charlie regains control and Alex's mind is subsumed along with all the others, and the monster promptly takes Chris' body into itself.
This leaves only Paul, Linda and Mark. When Mark finds out about his girlfriend's horrible death, he understandably freaks out. Charlie, in the form of Chris, tries to trick the others and almost convinces Mark, but Paul outs the imposter and the Chris-monster flees. Paul and Linda are for finding a way off of the rig, but by-now insane Mark refuses to leave, insisting his girlfriend is still alive inside of Charlie.
Paul loses some of my sympathy around this point because when he learns about Mark's heroin addiction he becomes quite mean to him over it and pretty much decides to abandon him despite the fact they're ostensibly best friends. I just find it quite dickish of him to hold Mark's addiction against him now of all times when they're fighting for their lives against a shape-shifting killer. (Edit: Upon rereading the novel, Mark pulls a gun on Paul so he does give Paul good reason to start being mean to him.)
Mark reacts to this about the way you'd expect, running away in despair. I really pitied this poor bastard, having lost his girlfriend and been essentially written off by his lifelong friend in the same day.
More tape-watching happens. I may be mixing up the order of some of the events, and, if so, I apologize. On the tapes, Paul and Linda get told by Dr. Shelley about the Phoenix Project and how it was intended to create the ultimate organism which can survive anything, and adapt to any environment. The experiment was funded by rich American businessman Lloyd Brinksone, owner of the Brinkstone oil company. Brinkstone apparently intended to use the results of the Phoenix Project to become immortal, basically "curing" death. Needless to say, the resulting mutant, Charlie, was too perfect, too good of a survivor, and yadda yadda yadda ate everybody.
Shelley insists on the tapes that of the people whose minds Charlie has absorbed after eating them, only he, due to his great intelligence, has had the willpower to remain separate, and force himself to the surface so to speak, changing Charlie's form into his. However he fears he will not be able to hold out forever, and, indeed, since we haven't seen Shelley since that first night, it appears Charlie finally completely absorbed him.
The new revelations about Lloyd Brinkstone make Paul and Linda decide that the American is responsible for all of this, and so they resolve to collect all of the tapes and take them back as proof of the Phoenix Project and take Brinkstone's ass to court. Smart! First, though, Linda finally convinces Paul they shouldn't leave Mark behind. Paul grudgingly agrees to go and find him.
Meanwhile, Mark finds Alex's heroin stash he'd been hiding from him, and, overjoyed, goes into the bathroom where he shoots up. As he's right in the middle of enjoying his hit, however, Charlie, in liquid form, oozes out from a ventilation duct and pours down over poor Mark's head. I guess his one consolation is he's too high to even realize he's getting absorbed...
Gonna try and wrap this up! I don't wanna leave this unfinished like I did with Slime!
Paul and Linda go looking for Mark and discover him and Charlie half-fused together in the bathroom, with neither moving. Mark is (technically) dead but only partially absorbed and Charlie doesn't appear to be trying to finish the job, just sort of sitting there as a big half Charlie, half Mark lump. Our heroes realize that because his victim has just shot up, Charlie is high as a kite! Heroin, it seems, has stopped the unstoppable! Thinking quickly, the pair get the rest of the heroin and inject it into the mass over and over again until it is seemingly dead. Then they go and rest.
When they awake, they decide to vamoose, just in case overdosing the creature failed. I'm unsure where they think they're going since the boats were smashed, but oh well. On the way out, they encounter a man with a flashlight and Paul shoots him, mistaking him for one of Charlie's forms. Then they escape to the exterior of the rig and discover a parked helicopter with the logo of the Brinkstone oil company on it! Paul realizes with horror he just shot the pilot. It doesn't hamper his and Linda's escape any; the copter is a Godsend. He has some (convenient) rudimentary piloting skills. He's just upset he killed an innocent person by accident. Linda consoles him.
Linda however realizes there were two pilots, and she and Paul go back inside to try and find and warn the second pilot. Here, they encounter Dr. Shelley. His consciousness has regained control of Charlie's body and changed it to his own in the mutant shark's heroin-induced stupor. He explains Charlie is going through fatal withdrawal symptoms and will die soon, and thanks the two for freeing him and everyone else Charlie ate, granting them the sweet release of death. He expires.
Paul and Linda then encounter the second pilot who explains that he was sent to find out why the Phoenix Project scientists had not reported in. He's a bit miffed about Paul killing his friend, but eventually the three reach a rocky understanding, and promptly depart in the helicopter after Paul and Linda collect Shelley's tapes about the Phoenix Project, as proof of what Brinkstone was doing. During the helicopter ride however, surprise surprise, it turns out the pilot isn't the real pilot, it's Charlie!
Apparently, he evolved a means of overcoming the heroin withdrawal by spreading his genes to other people instead of just absorbing them into himself. What he did exactly is a bit difficult to explain but essentially he "body hopped," killing the helicopter pilot and taking over his body, leaving his old, heroin-addicted one behind to die. It was this body which Paul and Linda spoke to in the form of the dying Dr. Shelley. Whether Shelley was still "himself" or was even aware of what had transpired is not gone into. Anyway, the Charlie-pilot explains he intends to also turn Paul and Linda into Charlie clones, and, eventually, do the same thing to everyone else on Earth!
A "white, pulpy tentacle" with a claw on the end "dripping fluid" emerges from the pilot-monster to "impregnate" them. Ew! Mutant shark penis! Linda's got a plan, though! She has some vials of heroin left and makes the gamble that although Charlie ditched his old body dying of severe withdrawal, he is still addicted, and, sure enough, the pilot-monster starts acting like a crazed junkie and demands she give him the goods. Between this and figuring out there was a second pilot earlier (and it isn't her fault he turned out to already be taken over), Linda is proving mighty useful all of a sudden. As Charlie grabs the heroin vials, she reaches over and opens the door, and a good kick from Paul boots Charlie out of the copter, and our friend the mutant shark plummets into the sea.
Paul then climbs up front and takes over the copter and puts his rudimentary pilot skills to good use. Uncertain that he's good enough to get them to the mainland, he instead aims for another, nearby Brinkstone rig, hopefully one that isn't a cover for a secret lab. As they come in for a landing, though, he and Linda make the horrifying discovery that when they opened the door to knock Charlie out, they also lost the tapes. Now they have no proof of their story. Brinkstone as well as the US authorities might have some questions about where the pilots of the helicopter went to. Not to mention all the scientists and guards and their four friends. And on top of that, there's the fact they were out there in the first place because they were smuggling drugs.
I suspect a very awkward trial and either prison or a long stay at the nuthouse are in Paul and Linda's future. And that's if Lloyd Brinkstone doesn't decide they know too much. And what of Charlie? They can only hope he dies of heroin withdrawal before he can reach land, because if he doesn't... well, let's just say it'd be very bad now that he has the ability to turn other living things into clones of himself. It would've been awesome if Brosnan wrote a sequel where Charlie returns and is systematically replacing people in an Invasion of the Body Snatchers kind of way.
Slimer was a thoroughly enjoyable read with a fun premise and a neat twist with how they defeat the monster by turning him into a drug addict. It was adapted into a 1995 movie titled Proteus. I'll cover that in a little more detail next time.
Nice review. Always a favorite of mine this. You could read the flimsy little thing on a single Sunday afternoon. And the cover always makes me chuckle for some reason. The film adaption was very poor. I had the budget released dvd for this but got rid as the print was very dark compared to the old VHS. Plus Craig ( I voice CALL OF DUTY games ) Fairbrass stars, which is another reason to move it on.
As for Harry Adam Knight I still have not had the pleasure of reading FUNGUS.
It's a fairly decent adaptation. Most likely because John Brosnan himself wrote the script. It makes some odd changes such as making Alex the main character and making him a badass, likable DEA agent, and also inexplicably now English, whereas the novel's English characters are now American and Alex's douchebag qualities are divided between Mark and Paul, the latter of whom, in the farthest fall from main character status I can think of, is actually Charlie's very first victim in the movie.
They also for some reason insisted on giving Dr. Shelley a Russian accent. Funny. "Shelley" doesn't strike me as a Russian surname. Beyond these weird changes the effects are a bit lame, particularly the shark monster animatronic used to represent Charlie's true form. It leaves a lot to be desired.
The editing is also weird. Two pivotal scenes are done strangely. The boat sinking happens quickly and we suddenly cut to the castaways in the raft; we never see them abandon ship and get in it. They're just suddenly in it. Ditto for the helicopter rescue at the end; the copter appears out of nowhere and suddenly the surviving characters are on it being flown away, with them never shown boarding. Weird.
But the main problem is the darkness, as erebus mentioned. Apart from the brightly-lit main lab, the interior of the Proteus Project facilities is very dark and dreary and it's hard to make out what is happening sometimes. A far cry from the brightly-lit white corridors Brosnan describes in the book.
The final major difference of note is that Mr. Brinkstone, mentioned often in the novel but never actually appearing, turns up at the end with a squad of armed goons. His name has been changed to "Leonard Brinkstone" (what was wrong with Lloyd?) and he's played by a thoroughly wasted Doug Bradley of Hellraiser fame, and gets killed off almost as soon as he's introduced, he and his henchmen merely providing more fodder for Charlie.
As to the ending, as in the novel, the pilot of the Brinkstone copter is revealed to be taken over by Charlie, but Alex and the surviving girl aren't aware of it and the film ends on a dramatic closeup of the pilot/Charlie's eye. Then cut to credits. Since the movie is told in flashback, with Alex talking to his superior officer at the DEA and telling him what happened, we're left to wonder: is Alex aware? I mean, he's telling all this to his boss in the present. It seems they were setting up for a sequel or perhaps a longer ending was cut out, since we never do return to the present to see what Alex's superior thinks of his story...
Despite this, the acting is quite good, especially from Craig Fairbrass as suddenly good guy Alex and minor details aside the plot is pretty much beat for beat an accurate retelling of Slimer. A much better effort than Corman's insultingly terrible Carnosaur.
And with that, my review of Harry Adam Knight's Slimer comes to an end, unless at some point I do a more detailed review of Proteus. Maybe some other time.
And again another good write up/review. Well Done. And again I must mention anyone wanting to see Proteus for the first time should indeed avoid the dvd that can been found and go straight for the old VHS release. Seriously it makes a huge difference. I found out this only after throwing away my old tape before viewing the dvd I purchased as an upgrade. I was so outraged after seeing the appalling dvd print I sold it on .
Found this on Goodreads in "other editions" of Slimer. Has anyone ever seen this cover for the novel? It appears to be the American edition.
I've only ever seen the Star cover with Charlie showing us his dental work. This alternate (?) cover showing the hand rising out of the black slime is new to me. I was unaware it was published in the US.
Yes, the Bart paperback of SLIMER was indeed published in the U.S., as I stumbled upon a copy in a 2nd-hand bookstore in Florida over 20 years ago. As for the Polish paperback, there are six different HAK novels available by that same publisher, all with cool covers... Carnosaur in particular.
Good news for Slimer fans. It's been reprinted, complete with an introduction by John Brosnan's co-author Leroy Kettle (or "Roy Kettle," as he calls himself). The Fungus has also gotten reprinted by the same publisher.
Roy, if you read this, I really loved your introduction to this edition of the book, and it's great to finally have Slimer back in print again.