|Excellent cover art by Wayne Miller|
I finished reading William Meikle's The Plasm last night, and whoo boy! What a fun ride! Mind you, my idea of fun can sometimes be a bit odd. That said, this piece of cosmic horror set in the depths of space hits on all cylinders. Which it should, as the author only has 128 pages to work with. Available from Dark Regions Press, this short release does not disappoint in any way. I can't say that I've read everything by the author, but what I have read has never failed to engage me and The Plasm continues this trend. This is a rather rousing tale of horror which could be effective in any era, but William chooses to set his latest story in the far future and it's absolutely ace! Let me get to the review, where I can explain why you must have this in your collection... First up, my synopsis.
At the beginning of the story we are introduced to Steve and Sam, who are both business partners and lovers. Steve is the level-headed workhorse of the two, while Sam is more prone to taking big risks and gambling that the rewards are worth it. These two opposites make a good team and manage to shore up each other's personal flaws. They are a team of spatial contractors, and handle everything from deep-space salvage to asteroid mining. Currently engaged in the latter endeavor, they complete their business and begin heading back to port. While in-transit their ship is rendered inoperative, and dead in the water (so to speak) they rush to pin-point what went wrong. Sam quickly fills her partner in on the bad news; their main drive has blown out, and they're stuck for the foreseeable future. Moreover, seconds before the main drive went out she had heard a proximity warning and the object has been identified as...
The starship Vordlak, which disappeared while on her maiden voyage! Sam is thinking only of the fortune and fame that they will get from finding the long lost ship, and she is blind to anything else. Steve isn't nearly as enthusiastic, and is worried more about the whole 'adrift in space' situation that they happen to be in. However, he ends up giving in to his partner and they begin to explore the Vordlak. The problem is that there isn't any evidence of what caused the ship to go missing, in fact, everything seems to be running normally. Except for the fact that there are no crew on board the Vordlak, nothing seems out of the ordinary. Until you add in that the ship is still fully powered, and that there really are a great many things missing. Such as the supplies needed for a long voyage; or the fact that the automated helpers that would be needed on a ship of this size are also mysteriously missing. After Sam pulls up the ship's logs, they begin to realize exactly what is powering the 'revolutionary' star drive of the Vordlak... and it's something that shouldn't exist in this universe. It seems NASA (and the military group that funds them) have veered quite off the beaten path to 'discover' their new power source.
Meanwhile, on Mars, Corporal Jake Royle is reporting for duty at his post. Said post being a highly classified military storage depot. Things begin on a bad note, when he is ordered to escort two 'suits' down into the catacombs. After they find the items they are looking for, they try to blow them up. Which turns out to be an extremely BAD idea... Instead they manage to unleash something from outside into our universe... Which Jake tries to run from, but in the end, there is no escaping the thing that is that has seeped into our reality. The two narratives eventually come together and the main question is, how will they all survive? All I can say is, 'Tekili Li!' Followed by 'Dhumna Ort!' Quoth the raven, 'You'll have to read the book.'
William Meikle always delivers an outstanding story, and The Plasm is no exception. The feeling of dread is palpable throughout this tale, and as the story moves along it becomes absolutely claustrophobic. Even after the characters discover the source of the otherworldly occurrences, they are given no respite. There is no apparent course of action to follow, no way to contain this incursion. To put it bluntly, they're screwed. Even when the shadowy forces that caused all of this step in, their efforts actually make everything worse. They are hemmed in on all sides, and no one is coming to save them... so they decide to do it themselves (along with one 'expert' on the matter who seems much braver, and smarter, than those who employ him).
William's writing flows from page to page seamlessly, and he handily executes the changes between the various narratives. As I read through, I was on edge and wondering what the endgame would be. I really couldn't put The Plasm down, and the pages just slipped by, one after another. I found myself identifying with the characters, and sharing in their frustrations and setbacks throughout. The way that the author melds so many different genres together is greatly appreciated. William rendered the story marvelously, with plenty of flair and a unique vision. The overall story was engaging, the characters were painted well, and the ending was a thing of beauty. This is an example of a highly professional storyteller and talented wordsmith, doing what he does. Which happens to be telling an extremely engaging story, and absolutely nailing it! I can imagine William as a traveling storyteller and bard, way back in history. Moving from campfire to common house, and on to the courts of kings. Always welcomed, always appreciated, always rewarded. What more can I say? Take a look at The Plasm, and enjoy! While you're at it, take a look at his stories in general. Believe me, you won't be disappointed...
Well then, I guess that's that, another great story that I had a lot of fun reading and reviewing. Here's the publisher's website. Stop by and take a look around. There are a lot of great stories waiting for you. Here's the Amazon page for the book. Lastly, here's the author's Amazon page. He's got a number of really great books available, so why don't you swing by and take a look around? I guess that's all from my end. As usual, have fun and happy reading!