Ghost Virus by Graham Masterton, read by Mark Meadows. Purchased through Audible via their monthly subscription (£7.99 per month, giving you 1 credit/1 free book per month), regular price is currently £21.99. The total listening time is 12 hours and 11 minutes.
I initially discovered this book on Kobo, as it came up in my recommended reads. I decided to use an Audible credit to buy this, to listen to while in the car…honestly, I’m not really sure what I was expecting…
Let’s just be straight here, this is one seriously weird book. And it doesn’t go easy on the gore-laden descriptions. I think the author genuinely went out from chapter 1, to up himself on the gore and weirdness, from chapter to chapter. ‘Impaled 2 people that chapter…better dismember some bloke in the next!’
Look, I’m going to be discussing the book, and I am very likely to spoiler you. So if you haven’t read or listened to this, but plan to, then don’t read past here. No, seriously. I’ve warned you. So don’t go whinging when I ruin it for you.
Okay. So the first chapter is quite gripping, I’m not going to lie. It’s intriguing, weird, gory, just gripping. The opening chapter really is a good one. So, we open on a young Pakistani girl, Samira, an apparently very beautiful girl…whom proceeds to pour sulphuric acid over her own face…and we are not spared any details here. At all. We have the skin melting off, her lips falling off, her clawing at her face, pulling her hair out…the acid eating through to her oesophagus, we just aren’t spared any details, basically. For an opening chapter, it truly is a brilliant one. It really did have me hooked.
The primary characters are Jerry Pardoe and Jamila Patel, DC and DS, respectively. With a whole host of minor characters in-between, but these 2 are our primaries. The storytelling is interesting, we jump from the policing side, to the suspects side, and then back again. We jump to and fro a lot. A lot!
So basically, old clothes are ‘possessing’ those wearing them, and making them kill (and eat!) their nearest and dearest…no, I’m not kidding. What baffles me, is why the first victim (Samira) kills herself…it’s never really explained, either. Because all of the others that are ‘possessed’ kill others, with the idea behind them wanting to eat humans, being that the dead person whom the clothes belonged to, no longer have a body of their own. So they have to consume the flesh of others, to rebuild a body…it’s a bit flimsy, but it does make some degree of sense.
Of course, it’s not just a case of smashing your wife’s skull in, no. We have a 9 year old, Mindy, who happens to come across a blue velvet jacket…just randomly hung on some railings…and for reasons best known to herself, decides she must wear it. Despite the fact it’s an old, musty, far too large for her jacket. She proceeds to return home, give her mam attitude…then vomit the dog she had been walking, into her mother’s lap. Yea…meanwhile, her mother and father send her off to bed. What? Just…she’s eaten the family dog, raw, and then vomited it up…and we’re not remotely alarmed by this? We don’t want to, you know, call the police? Hospital? Someone? Anyone? Nope…? Okay. Cool…so their delightful child, still wearing this jacket, proceeds to slit her mother’s throat, then smash her father’s skull and face to smithereens. Then! Pop down the local shop, because she (the entity possessing Mindy) doesn’t want to eat them raw, so will get ingredients for a casserole!
Which is exactly when some creepy paedophile happens across ‘Mindy’…and “lures” her back to his house…where she partially slits his throat, so he’s still alive and lucid…then she saws through his penis, with a blunt paring knife. Uh huh…she quickly fries the appendage in some butter, before eating it in-front of the…’injured’ party.
Are you starting to realise why I said, it was as though the author was deliberately trying to go from shocking, to disgusting, to horrendous, chapter by chapter? That’s not even the worst part. We have a teacher throwing 2 small children from a window, which results in them being impaled on the school railings, and dying. We have a hen-pecked husband severing his wife’s spinal column, stabbing her to death, then cutting off her head and microwaving it. I am serious, I am not making this up, this ALL actually happens in the book.
We have clothes that then, after this ‘ghost virus’ spreads further, just jumping up and animating themselves. Then dismembering some poor train commuter. We have a young woman unhappy in her relationship, so she stabs her boyfriend in both eyes, then disembowels him. While he pleads with her to stop, and help him.
Honestly, I’ve read 1000’s of books, maybe more…and this is hands down the weirdest one I have ever read/listened to.
I’m not going to completely spoil the plot, as some of it is just so fantastical, that it has to be read or listened to, it really does. So instead, I’m going to quickly touch on the narrator, Mark Meadows.
Now, this guy has quite a nice speaking voice, he’s clear and very easy to understand. My issue with him…? His Pakistani “accents”, his feminine impersonations and his overall oddballness. Seriously…some parts of the book, which shouldn’t have really been funny, I was in hysterics over, due to the narrator’s accents or impersonations. I genuinely do not know whether this was done deliberately, or if it’s just the voice actors way. Either way, I found him highly entertaining. Just not necessarily for all the right reasons.
I did actually enjoy the audiobook, despite the slight racial slurs within it, primarily aimed at the Indian and Pakistani communities, within Tooting – the location the story takes place. Now, I don’t think the author is racist, whatsoever, I think it’s just trying to bring the story a degree of realism. And to, dare I say it, appear edgy, maybe even controversial.
There is a, slightly flimsy, reason behind the clothes suddenly deciding to animate themselves, which spans into Lithuania. There’s a side story, involving a Lithuanian immigrant, whom steals cancer research clothes, left for donation, then resells them. Don’t worry, this dude gets his comeuppance.
I can’t leave the ending out, I just can’t. Our fearless, stereotypical ‘heroes’ happen across some SAS guys…who are lead by an extremely posh sounding gentleman, and overall…they come across as very un-SAS like, to me, anyway. Besides that…the chainsaw brigade, oh yes, they all manage to find chainsaws and proceed through the streets with them revving, is only slightly ridiculous. Slightly.
In all honesty, when I first bought and started listening to this, I thought it was going to be a crime, police procedural type of book, with elements of supernatural horror…what it really is, is a b-movie horror, in book form. That’s not to say that it’s a bad book, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this, so much so, that I listened to it twice. It’s utterly ridiculous, the characters are very stereotyped, it’s silly and completely over the top in the gore department…but oddly, it’s still an enjoyable, light-hearted (in the, do not take this even remotely seriously, just go for a drive and pop it on, or spend a rainy day listening to it, while eating junk food), completely oddball listen. I really think that this is a story that needs to be listened to though, because if you sat down to read this…you would just go, ‘this is stupid, I just wasted x-amount of money and time.’ The fun and entertainment here, comes from Mark Meadows, again I can’t say whether the awful accents were intentional or not. But the story is an interesting, albeit, weird one. The idea that the clothes (inhabited by their dead occupants) are behind it all…yea, it’s different. Very different.