The Scream – John Skipp and Craig Spector
Bantam Books – 1988
A demon possessed, sadistic, post-metal cyber-thrash band attempts to raise Hell on Earth by sacrificing thousands of its fans in horrendous acts of brutal violence. The only people capable of stopping these monsters are a group of heavily armed Vietnam Veterans turned rockstars. How could a book with this plot be anything but amazing?
Hang on. I’ll tell you now.
The Scream is far too long, it has too many characters that don’t matter, and its characterization ratio is a mess. I felt like I knew far more about Pastor Furniss, an insignificant minor character who we get to watch masturbate in the shower, than I did about Jake Hamer, the books hero. Sure, I know that Jake went through Hell in the ‘Nam, but I never really cared. In fact, the entire Vietnam subplot of the book is an unnecessary distraction from the main story. When a book ends with (spoiler alert) an enormous monster stuffing human corpses into its hungry vagina with its own proboscular cock, the readers don’t need a good explanation of where this thing came from. Saying it originated in the jungles of Vietnam is a bit underwhelming. As it stands, The Scream reads like three distinct stories (Rambo, Spinal Tap and Peter Jackson’s Braindead/Dead Alive) that were hastily sewn together – there’s just a bit too much going on.
Like Ghoul (another late 80s book about an evil rock band), The Scream also presents rock music in a confusing light. The authors rail against evangelical attacks on heavy metal, but the real bad guys in this book are the musicians, not the clergy. I suppose that’s just the nature of the beast though. Nice boys don’t play rock’n’roll.
All that said, The Scream is undeniably entertaining. The gore in here is very enjoyable, and it gets more and more intense as the book goes on. The novel culminates in a true splatterfest. Also, this is the only book I’ve ever read, probably the only ever written, to contain the word “vomitcumshitslime”.
I wish that the eponymous band at the heart of the novel were real. I really wish I could hear their music. This book was published in 1988, before the world got news of those Norwegian metallers killing each other, and while the gore in this book is absurd, the notion of murder music presented in here seems prophetic in retrospect.
Despite the abundant gore and the inclusion of perhaps the coolest imaginary band of all time, The Scream is not a great book. It’s a bit like dinner at McDonalds – it’s mucho enjoyable while it’s going in, but it leaves you feeling slightly unfulfilled after you’re done with it. This book is trash, a perfect example of a Paperback from Hell, and I knew that it would be when I started reading it. While I can’t say The Scream was amazing, I also cant say it was disappointing.
Would I read another book by this pair of authors?