cover image Biofire


Ray Garton. I D I Publications, $50 (460pp) ISBN 978-1-881475-41-5

Weird science runs amok and poses a provocative threat to personal freedoms in this slick if predictable thriller. Following the pattern of his Dark Channel and Shackled, Garton cheers on a ragtag cross-section of the American public as they pool reserves of democratic idealism and libertarian moxie for a class-action stand against an institution grown unprincipled with power. That institution is Landon Shaw's OdysseyCorp Labs, which for years has developed and sold weapons of awesome potency to the Pentagon, the mob and Third World countries willing to pay its exorbitant fees. Shaw's latest brainchild is Project Biofire, ""a psychic doomsday weapon"" created by infecting surgically souped-up brains with a synthetic virus that catalyzes latent psychokinetic powers. Shaw foolishly makes his abused and vengeful wife, Emma, a guinea pig in his experiments. Emma escapes the lab by ""flaming"" her captors--a mild exercise of Biofire's destructive possibilities--and recruits recovering cokehead Neil McNolte to help her elude her husband's clutches. Neil and his downtrodden friends at the South Street Mission are admirable embodiments of the egalitarian spirit. Unfortunately, Garton relegates the more intriguing elements of the story--including a glitch in the virus that makes Biofire contagious--to the periphery, to better promote the foregone triumph over Shaw's evil empire. The splatter that jazzed Garton's horror fiction (Live Girls, etc.) in the late 1980s is barely in evidence here, and some of the vitality of his ideas appears to have evaporated with it. Agent, Ricia Mainhardt. (Feb.)