Saturday, May 29, 2010

Book Review Re-issue of Skipp and Spector classic The Bridge!

The Bridge by John Skipp and Craig Spector
Leisure books, 388 pages

This recently re-issued horror classic is a most easily described as Rachel Carson's Silent Spring if it was polluted by George Romero's the Crazies. Right up there with the eco-horror-science fiction classic the Sheep Look Up (John Brunner) or the more recent Demons by John Shirley for combining the reality of pollution and environmental destruction with a down right scary horror novel. If you don't know John Skipp and Craig Spector maybe I should back up. These two men were the ultimate splatterpunk writing team who wrote the most extreme horror novels to grace the New York times bestseller list in the 1980's. They also wrote a novelization for Fright night, wrote set reports for Fangoria and even wrote a Nightmare on Elm Street sequel (the fifth film).

The team long ago split both doing excellent solo work, and Skipp now working with one of my favorite writers Cody Goodfellow. Spector released the amazing novel Underground. The Bridge is set in Paradise Pennsylvania, a small town near a nuclear reactor. For years a a small salvage company has used the the same bridge to dump unwanted waste into the river that flows by the city. One night a barrel cracks open in the river and sets off a chain of events. At times the novel follows the news crew trying to follow the story, the family responsible for the waste, the CEO of the company who created it, the crew running 911, and the nuclear reactor. Terror creeps across the town and every single page is entertaining.

The Bridge is an amazing example of horror, it leaves little doubt what novel is Skipp and Spector's masterpiece. Less dated than The Scream or Light at the End (Both work as excellent novels of their era) The Bridge elevates the splatterpunk to the lofty some what fake arena of literary horror. (I know almost all of it is literary – I say that for the doubters). It's not that this writing duo had not written other fine works of horror, this one is just head and shoulders above the rest. It is one of the best horror novels of the 90's if you ask this humble reader.

What makes The Bridge such an essential horror novel? First Skipp and Spector shred the rules, these are tired and true rules the teachers and wise sages in our genre have set up to help us young writers. The thing is Skipp and Spector have the skills to violate some of these rules and get away with it. They create lots of characters and shift the readers point of view all over the place. Often using this technique with a razor sharp punchlines that end chapters or transition the action from one location to another. They speak directly to the reader often in this novel and some times just slightly break down the fourth wall. Some readers might find this preachy but considering the topic of the novel that doesn't bother me, it excited me that the authors were boldly telling it like it is.

Another aspect that sets The Bridge apart is the obvious heavy lifting the duo did in research. This novel came out in 1991, Al Gore had not created the internet. This book has detailed information on toxic waste, pollution, the operation of 911, Hazmat clean-up, on and on. It breathes a realism into this novel.

The characters are rich, their motivations believable and the horror climbs a ladder of suspense. As British petroleum creates the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history (40 days in at the time of this writing) The Bridge could not be more relevant for re-issue. This is more than just another horror novel it is a entertaining thrill ride that happens also to be a warning with incredible foresight.

It's a mass market paperback, and I am afraid that libraries avoid these books. A trade paperback or pretty looking hardcover might do a better job of conveying the importance of this novel, but it should be in every collection. It's that good.

I like the old cover better.

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