Thursday, November 3, 2016

Son of the Black Plague

Plague Pit

 By Marc Alexander


Publisher: Venture Press 

Pub. Date: October 13, 2016

Rating: 2 out of 3 stars

Plague Pit was originally published in 1981 under the pseudonym Marc Ronson and has been re-released in the 21st century under what I assume to be the writer's real name, Marc Alexander. The late 70s and early 80s were horror's golden years. Thanks to writers like Stephen King, Clive Barker. Peter Straub, Robert McCammon and others, the horror genre burgeoned into a bestselling marvel. Every printing house in the world was clamoring for horror novels. That tends to bring out a fair amount of chaff. Quite a number of novels of that period disappeared into obscurity for good reason.
Plague Pit appears to be one of those. It has a good if far-fetched premise. British construction workers in London unearths a long forgotten burial pit of the victims of the Black Plague. The mutated and airborne virus infects the workers who quickly spread it through England and beyond. The book gets in trouble immediately with its premise even if it is a promising one. The idea of the Black Plague staying alive over 300 years is questionable in itself even if the author tries to explain it with a few scientific theories. But I would be able to forgive that if the story was the least bit interesting.

It is hard to imagine how one can make the idea of a deadly and virulent epidemic racing through modern England boring but the author manages it. The biggest reason is found in the characters. All of them are one dimensional with no reason given to root for any one of them. Then there is that stiff dialogue. Much of it does not add to the story and simply tries to be cute which leads me to believe the real purpose of the plague is to warn people to shut the hell up! The author makes everyone jumps through their hoops. There is the spreading of the disease, denial and coverup by the government, and a rapid race to find a cure and a vaccine. Yet the reader is left on the sidelines wondering where this is all going to go if one doesn't care in the first place.

The novel was and still appears to be billed as a horror novel. It doesn't really fits the claim and is what I would call speculative fiction; telling a story of what might happen using a realistic and believable scenario devoid, or with little, supernatural or pure science fiction intent. A epidemic themed tale should have some tense and scary moments though. This is little to none in this book. Some may find this "future plague" novel to be entertainment but I was left with only one thought of wonder. I wondered why anyone would bring it back.

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