Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Guy N. Smith Book Review - Warhead

Here's an interesting one. How many books have you read where the Soviets use the power of Voodoo to infiltrate a US-controlled nuclear missile base in the UK? It's got to be less than five. It begins unassumingly enough, with three University students, Mel Borden, Marc Sallus and Keith Widdington. They are celebrating the end of exams by playing with a Ouija board, because apparently they are 13 year old girls at a slumber party. The board spells out "DEATH" for Widdington both literally and figuratively and he burns to death in a fire that night. Is it a coincidence or have Marc Sallus' childhood experiences with the Houngan in the Carribean left him tainted with their Petro Voodoo black magic?

Many years later Mel Borden has found work at Caerlaverock, an American nuclear missile base situated on the Scottish/English border. Everybody working at the Caerlaverock lives under Draconian security measures, including constant surveillance and libido-dampening drugs, and the base operates with complete autonomy from the local police and military. Tensions are running high and the constant reminder of the nuclear threat has rattled the local villagers. I don't know if Smith has met many Americans because the ones in this book have some of the silliest names I've ever heard (eg Sax Blurton) and they are enormous assholes and massively racist to boot.

Meanwhile Marc Sallus has found work at an organic food company where he befriends a Slavic fellow named Ivan. Eventually Ivan reveals himself as a Soviet spy and that he wants to use Marc's Voodoo powers and his spiritual connection with Mel to gain access to Caerlaverock. He blackmails Marc with photos of him engaged in homosexual shenanigans which will threaten his position with his extremely conservative employer. Marc claims they are doctored and that "the very thought disgusts me". He doth protest too much, methinks. The two of them drive to a Scottish castle near the base and make their first attempt to summon the Petro gods.

One of the main gods they summon is Erzulie. She is typically seen as an earth mother and goddess of love but in this book she takes on a slightly more evil flavour, using her eroticism to entice and manipulate men. When their first attempt at summoning her fails, leaving them with supernaturally blue balls, the two guys strip off all their clothes and writhe around on the ground while masturbating. There was probably some awkward breakfast conversation the next day. Pretty soon Erzulie visits Mel Borden on the missile base, manipulating him into sabotaging the missile launch by enticing him with sexytimes.

The book also focuses on the nuclear threat that looms large over the village. One of the residents is an old retired Army Major who runs daily air raid drills, leading a procession of bored housewives into an underground bomb shelter. This goes horribly wrong when a nasty young delinquent, in the kind of nonsensically cruel behaviour typical of Smith books, decides to throw a petrol bomb into the packed bomb shelter, incinerating himself and everybody inside. Subsequently all of the depressed widowers rally behind a mysterious man who blames Caerlaverock for the incident, as a symbol of the nuclear threat. All of the suicidal men march on the missile base and barbecue themselves on the electric fence in protest. Pretty grim.

Eventually Marc kills the sinister Ivan but that only leads to an even more evil and ruthless Soviet spy taking his place. They take up residence in the burned out bomb shelter and eventually the dark forces they have summoned become beyond their control, demanding more and more blood sacrifices. This leads to a fairly ridiculous part that made for a bit of unintentional comic relief. One of the villagers walks into the bomb shelter to look for his missing son only to find him crucified by Marc and the evil Soviet Voodoo priest, sacrificed to the Petro gods. In a violent rage the man tears the enormous crucifix off the wall with his son's corpse still attached and throws it at the men. Who would do that? Pretty soon the Voodoo spirits are running wild all through the missile base with only one goal on their mind... nuclear apocalypse and the extinction of all mankind!

Coming off the heels of Manitou Doll and Doomflight, this book is even more gloomy and pessimistic but it's probably one of Smith's more ambitious books, combining cold war tension with supernatural horror. He tries to tie together a lot of different plot threads, juggling the villagers, the people at Caerlaverock, the Americans, the Petro gods and all of the conflicts between them. I think he's mostly successful (I think things got a little muddled towards the end) although it's generally lacking in trademark Smith silliness.

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