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Inhuman Beings

Jerry Jay Carroll

Ace Science Fiction

US Trade Paperback

ISBN 0-441-00529-2

250 page; $13.00

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 2001



Science Fiction, Horror, Mystery


When Jack Finney's 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' was published, the world was changed as surely as if it had been hit by an asteroid. Since then, we have been treated to a seemingly endless series of movies and books based around the theme of aliens invading by imitiating humans. Jerry Jay Carroll's second novel, 'Inhuman Beings' does absolutely nothing new with this theme, but it does so in toe-tapping, pulse-pounding style. Before you have the chance to say, 'That's just like the Body Snatchers!", you'll be done with this concise, compelling novel.

Carroll makes conscious effort to meld two genres in this novel, and he is absolutely sucessful. He offers up Goodwin Armstrong, a down-and-out private investigator in the San Francisco of the 1990's. He delves right into Raymond Chandler territory with his narrator locked in a white room, telling his tale. The tale he tells is straight out of Jack Finney by way of Rod Serling. There's been some kind of atmospheric phenomenom that has cut off all communications between the San Francisco and San Joe area and the rest of the world. Armstrong is hired by a psychic to find out who is killing psychics. It seems that the psychics have detected the arrival of something here concurrent with the cutoff. It's up to our intrepid investigator to find out what -- not who -- is doing this and why.

We get all the familiar tropes of the Body Snatcher stories -- husbands and wives suddenly acting strange, people in high places setting in motion a series of events that can only end in gunfire. Carroll descibes San Franscisco and northern California excellently, conveying the current mood with ease. The most outstanding part of this novel is his sense of pacing and plotting. This book reads so easily and is so well written, it's almost impossible to put down. And while Carroll is operating within a very familiar sub-genre, he does manage to come up with a couple of interesting twists on the "What and why?" front. 'Inhuman Beings' is an entertaining and exciting novel, almost well enough done to make the reader forget that the writer is "standing on the shoulders of giants". It certainly sugests that the writer is capable of becoming one of those whom he follows.