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The Orpheus Process

Daniel H. Gower

Dell Abyss

US Paperback First

ISBN 0-440-21113-3

420 pages; $4.99

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel in 1992 © 2002

Daniel Gower The Orpheus Process from Abyss



Raising the dead is only a popular occupation in horror fiction. In "The Orpheus Process", Daniel H. Gower manages to raise the dead but no new ideas. While he does occasionally manage to create a veritable symphony of gore, the characters and plots that propel his music are so implausible that they undercut his effective imagination.

"The Orpheus Process" is the brainchild of Leonard Helmond, a neurotic scientist and one of the worst parents -- in both senses of the word -- that has ever been spawned in the pages of cheap horror fiction. He's not mean -- he's neglectful. That is a description of the scientist as a parent and the writer as creator of a character. As a scientist, Leonard Helmond apparently manages to discover a method for re-animating dead organisms. He puts 'em in some special slime, then irradiates 'em with a secret ray. Their wounds are (amazingly!) healed, they cough up slime and whew! -- they're alive. He tries it with a rhesus monkey, then brings it home. Apparently, there's no need to study that sucker.

OK, so the science is a little woozy. So's the parent. Leonard's parental reactions are so jaw-droppingly stupid that they detract from the force of the book. Yes, in spite of itself, "The Orpheus Process" does have some momentum, and a pretty good monster in the middle of all the action. But putting Leonard in charge of children is like putting Lucille Ball in charge of a pie-packing plant.

Still, Gower's writing is firm when he starts exploring the world of mutated beings being brought back into a tortured existence. The trouble is, he doesn't spend enough time with mutations. Before you can get really nauseated, he brings you right back to Leonard "Don Knotts" Helmond, PHD Parent. And of course, when one of Leonard's children is killed, we know what he will do, and what will happen.

Well, not quite. Gower's gory imagination is up to a few surprises, and those like myself, who can't resist a decent monster, will probably relish a couple of detestable moments here and there, hoping Gower's next novel will have a main course not just be an un-appetizer.