First published back in June of 1985, prolific pulp horror author Guy N Smith’s novel ‘Throwback’ was just one of two of Smith’s novels to be published that year (the other being ‘The Wood’ (1985)).

DLS Synopsis:
Jackie Quinn is out shopping when the airborne virus first hits the United Kingdom.  Possibly from Russia, possibly somewhere else, no one seems to know.  What they do know is its instant effect on everyone that gets infected with it.  Their skin hardens, their eye sockets deepen, their hair thickens and matts, and their minds revert to that of a savage primitive.  Within minutes the streets are filled with sex-crazed barbaric throwbacks.  One of which is Jackie herself.

Elsewhere Jackie’s husband Jon has escaped infection from the virus by remaining holed up in their purpose built nuclear fallout bunker that Jon installed within their cellar.  Jon is not alone in this small safe haven.  With him is Sylvia Atkinson – Jon’s equally promiscuous bit-on-the-side.  Survival for the two of them is relatively easy.  Whilst the world outside goes berserk, they can pass away the days eating fresh vegetables and other such health foods that Jon has lived his life by.

But soon enough Jon is getting tired of his fancy woman and decides to take a look outside.  What greets him is a savage new world of survival-of-the-fittest.  Not only has man reverted to that of brutal primates, but the animals and wildlife have also become fiercer, stronger and far more deadly.  Now packs of wild dogs roam across the Shrewsbury landscape.  Groups of primitive throwbacks scavenge the rural outback, hunting for their meals – more often than not the raw flesh of whoever they encounter.

For most of the throwbacks, any memory of their lives before the virus swept across the land has been forgotten.  But somehow, Jackie Quinn is slowly beginning to piece together fragments of the memories from her life before.  Looking at the hairless flesh of the recent human captive that her throwback tribe have managed to imprison, sparks a long forgotten memory.  A  memory of a man who was once so very important to her.  A man she truly loved.  A man name Jon…

DLS Review:
‘Throwback’ is certainly as bizarre as it is original.  Its distinct lack of any real explanation to so many of the important plot-reliant questions is frankly quite baffling (if not downright surreal).  From the start, the reader is plunged into the mayhem of when the virus first begins to take its effects on mankind.  The resulting pandemonium is portrayed perfectly, with terrifying and disorientating motion everywhere.  However, at no time during the entirety of the tale is any solid explanation given as to what led to this monumentally devastating turn of events.

Within the space of a few pages, the post-apocalyptic premise is established and the first of the principal characters are taking their place within the tale.  Like with many of Smith’s other novels, adultery and turning-a-blind-eye to promiscuity are once again at the forefront of a number of the characters.  Although, soon enough Smith does offer up a small and delightfully ironic lesson to be learnt from such behaviour.

Forceful sex and heavy-handed near-rape scenes appear throughout the tale, with the throwbacks exerting a strong sexual urge towards all of the females (primitive or otherwise).  Along with the numerous sex scenes comes an even thicker helping of violence and desperate peril as well as cruel scientific torture.  Oh yes…the primitives are vicious little bastards who will stop at nothing to get what they came for…and mankind does come across that much better in many places.

The post-apocalyptic setting and scenario is not hugely dissimilar to that of Jim Starlin & Daina Graziunas’ ‘Among Madmen’ (1990) or indeed many other such post-apocalyptic novels that deal with savages scouring the landscape for survivors.  Indeed, the self-sufficiency of Jon Quinn and the rural setting  of the tale draws further resemblance to that of Terry Nation’s post-apocalyptic drama ‘Survivors’ (1975-1977).

Smith slips in a few brief reappearances of Professor Brian Newman from ‘Bats Out Of Hell’ (1978) fame.  Indeed, aside from the reappearance of this character, almost all of the other numerous characters that play out their individual roles have a very classic ‘Guy N Smith nature’ about them.  They’re each as gritty and troubled as the next, with hard (and well detailed) backstories forming the usual emotionally battered characterisation that we’ve come to love in these novels.

Sadly, the tale concludes on a rather weak note, with a strange and unexplained sudden twist providing the most unconvincing of endings.  The storyline seems to simply peter out, with hardly anything really finishing with anything close to a satisfying merit.

Although the ending is very much of a disappointment, ‘Throwback’ remains an exciting, fast-paced, energy filled post-apocalyptic novel with bundles of originality strapped to its back.  It’s still an inspired and fresh take on the subgenre, with mountains more scope left within its principal idea.  A brilliantly savage read throughout.

The novel runs for a total of 256 pages.

© DLS Reviews


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