First published back in November of 1987, American author Robert W. Walker released his third full length novel entitled ‘Aftershock’. Published by St. Martin’s Press, the novel sported a gloriously B-Movie-esque piece of pulp horror artwork, which did its utmost to illustrate the entire premise of the novel in one all-encompassing picture.
In a secret underground laboratory located in downtown L.A. that was set up by the wealthy Dr Leo G. Copellmier, two scientists, Marie Vorell Robel and her husband Arthur Robel, are busy working on the ultimate biological weapon. However, a problem has occurred with one of the lab robots, and so Marie Robel dons her protective suit with its high-tech metallic claws, and enters the experimental plagues containment area to investigate the problem. Whilst Marie Robel is surrounded by the highly contagious and deadly man-made plague, L.A. is suddenly hit by a massive earthquake. In the ensuing damage, both of the scientists become infected with this horrifying new plague as does the world renowned Dr Leo Copellmier.
Amongst the rubble, Dr Michael McCain and Dr Casey Stern work desperately to set up an emergency medical aid centre in order to help all of the thousands of victim of the gigantic earthquake. Whilst digging through the mounds of rubble underneath the ‘Copellmier Center for Disease Control’ (the CCDC) in search of any survivors, the two rescue ‘moles’ Raphael Alonzo Naldosa and Bjorn Amunsen, encounter a horrifically mutated creature sporting powerful metal claws. A split-second later and Amunsen has been dragged away into the depths of the rubble to be devoured.
Whilst following the work of the two hard-working doctors, local reporter Tony Quinn witnesses the heroic and selfless acts of the two rescue moles and decides to run a story on them. Upon learning of their tragic deaths, Quinn purchases a copy of the video tape that captured the moles final moments. After repeatedly studying the footage, Quinn realises that there was more than just the two moles amongst the dust filled rubble of what once was the CCDC building.
And now, after the tragedy of the massive earthquake, the streets of L.A. are all of a sudden being plagued by a new killer quickly dubbed the ‘brainsnatcher’. Fresh corpses are being found in and around the underground sewer system, many of which are missing their heads and spinal cords. Quinn realises that there could well be a link between the mysterious death of the mole Amunsen, the unknown viral infection that Naldosa brought back up with him, and the psychopathic killer that is now on the loose. Together with the two doctors and his friend and co-worker Jose Ortiz, Quinn hopes to track down this killer and save those around him from a horrific death. But the monstrous creation that lurks in the shadows is hungry for live victims and is ready to breed...
Walker begins the novel setting down the delightfully pulpy premise in which the colourfully elaborate plot is to blossom from. From here on the tale just accelerates and accelerates and accelerates in pace, with victim after victim falling at the claws of the monstrous creation that Copellmier’s experiments spawned.
With an unashamedly over-the-top storyline cramming in as many B-Movie clichéd ideas as the tale can physically support, Walker has managed to create a masterpiece of manic tongue-in-cheek pulp horror. There’s no getting away from the fact that this novel is nothing but gore-drenched pulp horror entertainment. There’s certainly no shame in it (well, that’s what I keep telling myself anyway). However, time and time again, Walker injects some scientific explanation in an unnecessary attempt to seemingly justify the novel as slightly more than just pulp horror literary candy, or perhaps just to nudge it slightly towards a more mature reader base. However, these brief episodes of scientific mumbo-jumbo only seem to form buffers between the barrages of rampaging mutant action and little more.
The characters are exaggerated clichés of imaginary American B-Movie stars. The developing relationship between the two doctors is as cheesy as it is cringe-worthy. But you’d expect no less from a novel such as this. Its rich and vibrant storyline is totally complemented by the colourful and ‘mass-produced’ characters that spur the novel along.
The tale races towards the eventual and obligatory showdown between the few remaining main characters and the monstrous killer. Walker delivers an energetic and action-packed grand finale that brings the tale to a dramatic and ultimately satisfying conclusion.
All in all, Walker’s pulp horror novel ‘Aftershock’ is a non-stop gorefest that blends together a host of B-Movie plot scenarios to create this veritable homage to the genre. The cover artwork sums up the novel perfectly (although if I was to be pedantic, the monsters ‘claw’ doesn’t really reflect the one described in the novel).
The novel runs for a total of 248 pages.
© DLS Reviews