Wurm and Garden – Matthew Costello

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 costelloWurm – 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.

wurm paperback matthew costelloA 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

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.

The Worms – Al Sarrantonio

the worms sarrantonioThe Worms – Al Sarrantonio

Berkley Books – 1988 (first published 1985)

You know what this blog needs? Yeah, that’s it! More horror novels about evil worms.

I didn’t know anything about this book when I started it apart from the fact that the author had written a series of books about Halloween. Most of the horror novels I’ve read about Halloween suck ass, so I didn’t have high hopes for a worm horror book written by a Halloween guy. I was quite surprised by The Worms though.

This is the story of toxic waste infused worm zombies taking over a small town. Anyone who gets bitten by these freaks turns into a worm themselves, and that’s only the beginning of their transformation. This book has loads of action and grossout moments, and I loved every page. By the end, the small town where the story is set has turned into a Boschean hellscape. This is entertaining stuff.

This might not be high literature, but it was a lot of fun. I wish I knew about books like this when I was a teenager. If you have older kids, encourage them to read this! As an adult, I fully intend on reading more Sarrantonio on the future; maybe I’ll even do his Halloween series this October.

This is a short review, but there’s not much left to be said. Sarrantonio’s The Worms is a slick little horror novel that makes good on its title’s promises. If you like fun horror novels, you should read this book.

I recently reviewed another book with a similar title. For the record, I personally enjoyed The Worms more than Worms.

Worms – James R. Montague

worms james montagueWorms – James R. Montague
Valancourt Books 2016 (First published 1979)

After my recent spate of reading books about killer worms, I decided to cut back on that kind of thing. There’s a surprising amount of horror novels on that topic, and while none of the ones I read disappointed me terribly, I decided that it wasn’t a field in which I needed to dig much further. I told myself that from thereon I should only read only the choiciest horror novels about worms. Valancourt books, those purveyors of arcane lore, decided to reissue Jame R. Montague’s contribution to the genre after it had remained out of print for almost 40 years, so I assumed it would be pretty good.

This was a fairly strange book. It’s about a henpecked husband who acts drastically and then seems to go mad with guilt. It starts off lighthearted and funny, proceeds into the realm of psychological horror, and ends with a bang of tromaesque nuclear worm horror. It’s not a long book either, so these changes were a bit jarring. I liked the first part a lot and probably would have enjoyed everything a bit more if the rest of the book had continued that way.

Still, this was a decent read. It’s short, entertaining and quite weird.

I knew that James R. Montague was a pseudonym for Christopher Wood when I was reading this book, but it wasn’t until I wrote it down a few minutes ago that I realised that the pseudonym is M.R. James backwards. Fuck, now I want to read this again to compare it to that author’s work. Apparently Christopher Wood wrote the screenplays for a couple of James Bond films and the novelisations for 2 others. Worms has very little in common with James Bond stories.