Frankenstorm by Ray Garton
On the eve of the biggest storm in west coast history, virologist Fara McManus shows up at work in a secret government lab where microbiologist Dr. Jeremy Corcoran has been working on a new bioweapon, using the homeless as human guinea pigs. Concerned for the subjects, Fara decides to stay. Especially now. Between the raging storm outside and the rage-inducing chemicals in the patients, a million things could go wrong. But the last thing Fara expects to happen is an armed attack on the lab, an explosion of gunfire, and an army of men smashing the barriers. Releasing the infected. Spreading the virus…into the world.
On a night like this, there is no shelter from the storm.
At first glance you may be forgiven for thinking, based on the title alone, that this is a novelisation of a B-movie you’d normally find on the likes of the SyFy channel*. I’m certainly willing to admit that it was the slightly geeky sounding name that initially hooked me. That title, along with the book blurb above, conjures up all manner of weird and wonderful images. The big question though – does the book live up to this promise?
The majority of the action in this novel takes place in and around what used to be a local psychiatric hospital and is now an off the books government research facility. The researchers based there are a suitably shifty lot, especially their boss Dr Jeremy Corcoran. Turns out that access to copious amounts of mind-altering drugs, some scientific knowledge and a total lack of anything remotely resembling morals isn’t necessarily a good thing. You genuinely couldn’t meet a nicer man. I’m kidding obviously, the good doctor is an odious self-absorbed sleaze and I found myself holding my breath hoping for that glorious moment when he gets exactly the resolution he deserves.
The other epically nasty character is a Sherriff’s deputy called Officer Ram van Pohle. He’s not having a good day, and troubles at home have really soured his mood. When local diner owner Andy and his son Donny find themselves in a situation that requires Ram’s assistance, and then some infected are thrown into the mix, just about all hell breaks loose.
Meanwhile the weather continues to worsen and destroys all most everything in its path. Events spiral out of control and you can rest assured that there will be blood.
My only minor gripe is that I felt the final chapters wrapped everything up rather too quickly. I would have preferred if the climax of the story had been eeked out a bit more. Everything just seemed to finish rather abruptly. What was there was fine, but I just think I wanted more – crank up the gore to eleven, unleash a bit more mayhem. The test subjects are described as having effectively had all their self-control removed. They are bloodthirsty maniacs, so more evidence of this would have been have been the cherry on top of an already pretty entertaining cake.
On a side note, a quick Internet search reveals that Frankenstorm was originally released in a six part serialised format. Seems this style of publication is getting more and more popular of late. I think this is the third or fourth instance of this particular phenomenon I’ve seen this year. I do rather like this idea, that readers can get to pick and choose the most convenient way to receive new fiction. If you like the sound of an episodic tale than you can go for option one, but if you prefer your fiction as a whole, option two is also available. Personally in this case I went for the second option, slightly easier to review a book when you can view it as a whole.
The edition of Frankenstorm I read also included a second story called The Guy Down the Street. It’s good news when you get some additional material you weren’t expecting. I always appreciate a nice bit of bonus content.
Let’s recap then. Essentially, this novel is man versus homicidally infected escapee test subjects versus the weather. Things get violent, occasionally creepy, and at more than one point there is a flying tree. I suspect that it’s not possible for events to get much more chaotic than that. Frankenstorm is fun entertaining fiction that has a bit of a B-movie-esque vibe, but manages to avoid ever being stuffy and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Embrace the madness, it works for me, I’m in.
Frankenstorm is published by Pinnacle Books and is available as an ebook now. A paperback edition is due on 1st June 2014.
*I’m looking at your Stonehenge Apocalypse.