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Plasmid

Novel by Robert Knight 1980.

"Once you're Plasmid - it's too late!" announces the front cover of this tacky gem, and it reflects well the contents. The Fairfield Institute of Genetic Research is investigating methods of adapting humans to suit specific environments: deserts, frozen wastes, underwater, even the vacuum of space. Professor Fraser, in charge of the establishment, is short on patience and needs results to guarantee further funding. So he starts taking risks and cutting down on safety procedures, and produces a rogue plasmid: a mad human being possessed of incredible strength but who cannot survive in sunlight. Naturally it soon escapes and takes to the sewers. Best of all, it creates others exactly like it by mere physical contact. Soon peaceful Oakhaven is being besieged by hordes of bleached mutant killers. Only intrepid radio reporter Paula Scott has the guts to take on the problem.

There's no originality to speak of here, just the old 'genetic research gone wrong' standard mixed with the 'something nasty in the sewers' chestnut for maximum effect. But this horror-by-numbers effort is written with sufficient skill that the breakneck pace and wonderful lack of subtlety make up for it. And the finale is a masterpiece of ironic shock theatre. It's fast, furious and thoroughly tacky, and thought by some to be Shaun Hutson working under one of his myriad pseudonyms. It's certainly possible, but with his favourite word ('viscera') conspicuous by its absence, I wouldn't bet on it. Recommended but certainly not for the discerning customer.

Based on a screenplay by Jo Gannon.


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