Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Them by William W. Johnstone

by William W. Johnstone
Zebra Books 1992

Alien brains with tentacles land on Earth and communicate with Jake Silver, a nerd who is teased around town and beaten by his ignorant father.  After a few pages of Jake's snide pedantic attitude, I'm rooting for the dad, but we're told early on that Jake is evil, so it's OK.

The leader brain, named Cag, gives Jake telepathic powers, which he uses to have sex with his teacher and wreak revenge on his tormentors.  He makes one masturbate in public while two others sodomize each other in a grocery store (box ticked).  I was thinking there would be more in this direction, but Johnstone loses interest in Jake pretty quick.

Other alien brains take over Earthling brains with unhappy results.  Some humans go a little slow and turn to baser instincts, committing acts of violence and incest.  Others have their brains explode out their eye sockets.

This leads to the best part of the book, as an already deranged town idiot goes on an ax murdering spree.  Those segments may be the most horror novelish of anything Johnstone has produced.

Cag is communicating with Jake's Mom and some scientists and has a mind laser war with the other alien brains.  The last chunk of the book is Cag bemoaning how humanity values sports over intellect, and how he decided humanity doesn't deserve to be conquered.

Over pages and pages of this, it slowly dawned on me that Cag is supposed to be the good guy, and that his exposition is the clearest form of the worldview that runs further in the background of Johnstone's other books.  Cag's plan is to murder half the population of Earth - those that break the slightest rule or don't produce enough.  Everyone left will be reasonable and productive, so there will be an end of conflict.

As long as you can manage a looooot of skimming, the good parts of Them are some of Johnstone's best.  The bad parts (college vocabulary insults and repetitive soap-boxing) are probably the worst.

Available in Kindle ebook from Amazon.

Click here to read a sample

Paperback from AbeBooks

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