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The Wyrm

Stephen Laws

New English Library

UK Mass Market Paperback

ISBN 0-450-59979-5

343 pages; £5.99

Date Reviewed: 04-03-1996

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 2002





It's a statute affecting horror writers in every county and country in the world. Failure to observe this statute could result in having your horror writing license revoked by the authorities. Every horror writer must do it, or perish in the attempt. The penalty for failure is high, but the rewards are great. The lucky writer could find him or herself at the helm of a popular horror series. What is this terrible act, this horrible duty?

The vampire novel. Stephen Laws is certainly not above his surname, and in 'The Wyrm' he comes about as close as he can to writing a vampire novel while managing to avoid almost every cliche, except the characters. But, if the characters seem overly familiar, the vampire certainly isn't. 'The Wyrm' is no pale-faced, fanged Romeo, but a shape-shifting terror more reminscent of John Campbell's (and John Carpenter's) 'The Thing' than Anne Rice's Lestat.

'The Wyrm' is unnecessarily framed by the old interviewer-asking-the-survivor-what-happened scene. Once Laws gets past that hurdle, we're introduced to Michael Lambton, a writer who specializes in fear and considers himself dead because he doesn't write any more. He's moved to the Border Village of Shillingham, into a remote house to escape the burden of his life. In other words, he's the prototypical Lonely Writer, who in short order, spots the Village Beauty, Christy Warwick. Christy's father goes crazy and shoots at some construction workers who are trying to move an old gibbet to clear the way for Progress. Of course, something Terrible lies under the gibbet, and Laws starts to get up to speed once the monster gets out.

Laws' strength in this novel is not his characters, who seem to have been selected from Monster Movie central casting. But the monster on the loose is relentless, inventive, and splattery. As you see more and more of the monster, it becomes clearer what it is, and how it must be destroyed. It's a brief ride but a fun one, since, unlike many monster books and movies, Laws gives his humans no chance to rest or regroup. His descriptive passages and set pieces are gripping and terrorizing, in the best monster movie fashion. The resolution is both logical and impressive. 'They Wyrm' lacks some of Laws finer strengths, but works just dandy as a monster-eats-'em-up masterpiece.