I reckon that my memories of 2020 will be bittersweet. The lockdown and subsequent interruptions to my life have been pretty annoying, but on the other hand, I have read a bunch of cool books about scary worms. The worm books I have read have been surprisingly varied in their style and stories, but Matthew Costello’s Wurm is the most ambitious by far.
Wurm – Matthew Costello
Crossroads Press – 2018 (Originally published 1991)
A deep sea expedition brings some extremely dangerous parasitic worms back to the surface. While this is happening, a psychic channeler starts getting messages from powerful alien entities telling him to commandeer a TV station. Do these events have anything to do with each other? After the freaks take to the airwaves, the worms attack New York City in the grossest, most violent ways imaginable.
A very cool paperback edition cover
I had read that this book was a bit overwritten, but I really enjoyed the whole thing. There’s definitely a few problems and plot-holes here – my question in the last paragraph isn’t rhetorical – but this is a super entertaining mix of sci-fi and horror. If you’re the kind of person who is willing to read a book with a wurmy face on the cover, I reckon you’ll have a good time with this one.
Reading this in 2020, I was quite glad that I hadn’t written it. The one black character is bad, and while not all of the bad guys are black, it does seems that this chap’s blackness is part of what makes him bad. I’m not saying that Matthew Costello is an evil bigot – he probably cringes at the offending sections now – but these bits have aged horribly. (There’s a good black guy in the sequel too, so let’s not cancel anyone just yet.)
Garden – Matthew Costello
Crossroads Press – 2018 (Originally published 1993)
Garden is a very short sequel, only a novella, and it doesn’t really feel like a separate book to Wurm. It’s more of an extended epilogue. It certainly wouldn’t be of much interest to anyone who hasn’t read Wurm.
It tidies things up a little bit and provides a slightly more satisfying ending to the story than Wurm manages. Remember those weird aliens that hatched out of peoples’ bodies in the TV studio? They’re back. There’s still not much offered in the way of an overall explanation for what has happened, and while things are wrapped up by the end, the means by which this wrapping up happened remain pretty unclear. There’s some kind of weird religious symbolism going on, something about sacrifice… I didn’t really want to think too hard by the time I was finishing up. Also, why the Hell was it called Garden? I struggle to imagine a more boring title for a horror novel… Shoe?
Let’s be honest, the plot of Wurm and Garden is a mess and ultimately unimportant. These books provide plenty of thrills and mindless fun. They’d make a far better TV series than they would a movie. I would be happy to read more of Matthew Costello’s horror fiction in the future.
Both Wurm and Garden were recently published by Crossroads Press, a company that specialises in putting out digital versions of out-of-print horror. I have had to cut down on buying physical books for storage reasons, and I plan to buy a bunch more stuff from this awesome publisher. Seriously, check them out.