First published back in June of 1987, Richard Laymon’s short story ‘Thin Air’ was released as a stand-alone story for the ‘Double Fastback’ series.  The Fastback series were designed to encourage reluctant-readers to take up reading, keeping the stories short, sharp and exciting.  ‘Thin Air’ formed the fourth and final instalment in the four-part series involving the Strange Occurrence Squad (‘SOS’).  All four of the stories in the series were ‘Double Fastbacks’ meaning they were double the length of a standard Fastback.

DLS Synopsis:
It had been a nice day, so Dennis Wayne and his wife Peggy had gone for a walk up a hill a few miles out of town in order to enjoy the weather and have a relaxing picnic.  They’d been about to start eating when Peggy spotted a yellow butterfly.  She’d gone over to take a look at it when all of a sudden she disappeared into thin air.

Not knowing what to do Dennis had run off to get help.  He’d return shortly afterwards with Officer Hank Bishop of the Black River Falls Police Department in tow.  Of course Officer Bishop didn’t believe much of what the frantic young man was saying.  That is until he approached the rock where Peggy had last been seen – whereby he too suddenly vanished.

Seconds later Officer Bishop was back again and running in a state of panic back down the hill.  What he’d seen when he vanished was enough to scare the life out of him.  He’d stepped into a different world which was like something from a nightmare.  It had been hot and foggy and red.  All he knew was that he had to get out.  So he’d turned around and jumped back.  Unfortunately it appeared that Peggy hadn’t thought to do the same.

Now they needed help if they were to get Dennis’ wife, Peggy Wayne, back.  Luckily Officer Bishop had the details for a team who might well be the right people for the job.  They called themselves the Strange Occurrence Squad…

DLS Review:
Following on from ‘The Night Creature’ (1986), ‘The Beast’ (1986), and ‘The Return’ (1986), the plot for this final instalment into the short Fastback ’SOS’ series is pretty damn quick to get underway.  Within a matter of a few short pages Peggy’s disappeared into thin air and our local bobby’s had a taste of the nightmare world which a temporary gateway’s seemingly opened into.

In come the eclectic ‘SOS’ team with the usual raised eyebrows greeting their oddball appearance.  Even with such a short amount of pages to cram the entire story into, Laymon still manages to slip in some hammy characterisation – making Dennis out to be a bit of a cowardly arse who instantly causes rifts with the team that have flown in from California to help.

But it’s not until Clint, Malcolm and Theresa have stepped through the gateway and into the strange red world beyond that the story really picks up its pace and truly comes into its own.  From here we’re transported into a strange nightmarish world like something Simon Clark might have penned during the 90’s.

Laymon throws in plenty of weird and wonderful otherworldly threats akin to the strange monsters from ‘Jason And The Argonauts’ (1963).  There’s really no let up from one desperate moment of peril to the next, as the pace roars forwards until the final action-rich finale.

These Fastbacks are more often than not quite disappointing in their content, mostly due to the limitations of the format and page count.  However, with this final offering Laymon’s somehow pulled out a surprise winner – delivering a fast, exciting and utterly entertaining short read.  Trust me – this one’s really good fun!

The Fastback runs for a total of 61 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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