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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Horror Review - The Darkness Within: Final Cut by Sam Stone

ZOMBIES ON A SPACESHIP!

If that tagline doesn’t grab you, then read no further. If, however, it gets you just the slightest bit excited, then by all means keep on reading. Trust me, this is one mission worth signing up for!

The Darkness Within: Final Cut is a near-perfect mash up of science fiction and horror, an interstellar zombie tale that actually manages to take advantage of the high-tech setting. Having seen so many other attempts (books and movies alike) fail so miserably, I was somewhat cautious – skeptical, even – upon receiving the review invite. Fortunately, for every time Jason, Leprechaun, or Pinhead have been sent into outer space, there are movies like the Alien Saga to demonstrate how it should be done, and Sam Stone has clearly done the right kind of homework.

What we have here is a somewhat typical science fiction tale, with a self-described Ark transporting a group of colonists to start life all over on a new Earth. It’s a very clean, very sterile sort of environment, more akin to Star Trek: TNG than Alien, but that’s part of what makes the inevitable horror so effective. It’s not a perfect environment – there’s a class struggle between the colonists and the crew, and some minor technical glitches to deal with - but it’s familiar.

Things begin to go astray about a year into the mission when one of the crew retrieves a shiny shard of rock from the ship’s debris collector. One of those minor technical glitches causes him to be reeled in too fast, damaging his spacesuit, and causing him to grasp the strange shard tightly enough to cut through his hand. Neither the ship’s surgeons nor their automated quarantine measures can detect it, but Banks is most definitely infected.

And so the horror begins.

How and why the infection spreads is half the story, with how and why the parasites evolve forming the other half. It’s an incredibly gory, unsettling sort of tale, with some really unsettling implications for mankind’s future. Not to overhype it, but I believe Stone may have very effectively imagined a means of parasitic infection that compares to the Alien chest-bursters in terms of shock value and the overall gross-out factor. Even after reading of several such infections, my own queasiness came back as strong as it did the first time.

There are some nice twists and turns to the tale, with more than a few surprises along the way. I honestly wasn’t sure just how dark of an ending Stone might be leading up to, but I think she crafted a climax that’s as fitting as it is enjoyable. If you’re a fan of horror in outer space, then The Darkness Within is a definite must-read . . . although an empty stomach is advised.


Paperback, 184 pages
Published February 4th 2014 by Telos Publishing Limited

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