Science Fiction Book Review

The Spinner

by Doris Piserchia
Reviewed date: 2023 Feb 19
Rating: 1
176 pages
cover art

Monster book
The Spinner is much like another Doris Piserchia book, The Fluger. Neither of them are really science fiction. They are monster books. As in, there is a monster terrorizing a town, an eclectic cast of characters, gruesome scenes of murder and dismemberment, and eventually the monster is dispatched. It is not a satisfactory story.

Piserchia jumps from one plot thread to the next, never explaining who these people are or what they're doing or why. Sometimes explanations emerge later as the story progresses, sometimes they don't. It's jarring, disconcerting, and difficult to follow.

Grisly killings
In my synopsis (warning: spoilers abound) as I introduce each character I will specify [in brackets] the grisly fate that author Doris Piserchia writes for that character.

Rumson Bore
Gee Rumson [heart attack] is an inventor and a mining business magnate who is illegally operating his Rumson Bore in the town of Eastland. The Rumson Bore is illegal because it reaches into nearby universes to grab resources. The potential danger of the Rumson Bore becomes real when the digging disturbs Mordak, a spinner, who creeps from his own world into Eastland with revenge on his mind.

The Spinner
The Spinner's name is Mordak. He's humanoid-shaped with a head, torso, arms, and legs, but he's nigh indestructible. His sensitive organs are distributed throughout his body so even a headshot or a direct injury to the spine won't kill him. He heals rapidly so injuries slow him down but not for long. Only a massive and total trauma to his entire body could kill him.

Mordak is intelligent, violent, ruthless, and bent on revenge. He wants to kill and destroy everyone and everything, first in Eastland, then the whole world. Mordak can spin webbing like a spider, and the webbing adheres to skin and traps anyone who comes in contact with it. In short order Mordak spins a web around the entirety of Eastland, trapping the residents in and keeping the army out.

The town of Eastland is coastal, but apparently nobody thinks of avoiding the spinner's web by making an amphibious landing, or escaping from Eastland by boat. Eastland is a city large enough to have two local newspapers, a large hospital (Eastland Memorial Hospital), an old folks home (the Retreat) comprising multiple eight-story apartment buildings, a cathedral, a snooty physician who treats only the town's wealthy clientele, and a high-rise office building—but there is only a single road in or out of town.

Troglodyte cannibal army
There's a band of senile old folks who live in the hidden caverns under the city. Yes indeed, a veritable troglodyte army. Their leader is Gusty (Augustus Worth) [magnesium fire + dynamite], a retired doctor. There's Pathia [died after Gusty forgot he was operating on her], Nox, Kruge [spinner attack + fall off a bridge], Hitty [natural causes], Cappy [natural causes], Jesse, and Bindle. There is also Rune, a young man whose brain has been operated on, depriving him of language but vastly improving his senses and natural reflexes.

Most of these old folks are certifiably insane. They are also incredibly angry at the way society has cast them aside, and to that end they have procured dynamite and magnesium which they have planted all around Eastland. They're going to blow the town up. Of course they don't usually remember this plan; their minds aren't what they used to be.

Oh yes, and they are cannibals. They occasionally snatch some individual off the streets of Eastland and eat him. Then they mail the bones to the FBI.

Eastland is not a fun place to live, even prior to the spinner's arrival and reign of mass murder. Ruffians terrorize the locals. Chief among them: Jerome [eaten by cannibals] terrorized Mrs. P, a retired resident of the Retreat [driven to suicide, jump off balcony]. Jerome steals her things, smashes every item in her apartment, and even kills her dog Snooky [poison]. The police do nothing, but Jerome gets his comeuppance when the troglodyte army kidnaps him, roasts him, and eats him at a big cannibal feast. Then they mail his bones to the governor of Hawaii.

One of the main characters is a police officer, Ekler [shot by soldier]. His girlfriend Jetta [exposure, stuck in Mordak's web] doesn't like his mentally handicapped sister Bitsy or his friend Duff [shot through the head]. Bitsy eventually gets kidnapped by Rune, who takes her for a wife, and they seem happy.

Another major character is Captain Bailey [killed by baby spinners] who turns traitor and helps Mordak. He recruits some other officers, and they serve Mordak by marking houses for him to attack, throwing the living into the web, and even killing the townsfolk themselves and throwing them into Mordak's web.

Gusty, the leader of the cave-dwellers, is a retired doctor. Then there is Dr. M. Tyne, who serves only the town's wealthy citizens. Finally there is Dr. Nate Zebb [mauled and eaten by Mordak] who has for years been illegally kidnapping citizens and operating experimentally on their brains. It's Dr. Zebb who created Rune, the mute super-human who challenges Mordak.

Spinner eggs
Ekler realizes that there are thousands of little objects in Mordak's web, and he gets Gee Rumson to examine one of them. It's an egg. The shock of this realization triggers a heart attack and Rumson dies. Soon thousands of spinners hatch and begin to feast on the dead bodies in the web. As the baby spinners grow and become more capable, they begin attacking and eating the surviving townsfolk.

The army still can't get in, and the people of Eastland can't get it. However, there is a way out through the caverns. Ekler and Gus begin evacuating the citizens as quickly as possible, while the army sends in some troops to evaluate the situation. The soldiers have no experience with spinners and are quickly overwhelmed and eaten. Gus and Ekler decide to handle things themselves, and the best solution is to start a fire that will touch off the magnesium and dynamite that are cached all around the city. The ensuing explosion and inferno will burn and destroy every last spinner.

The Spinner
It works. Gus sets off the explosives and perishes as the city goes up in flames. The entire city, Mordak, the web, and the baby spinners burn up.

Except one. One baby spinner escapes. Ekler tracks it into the woods beyond the city and is about to kill it when a soldier shoots Ekler dead. The spinner escapes.

The end.

Cover art
The cover art on the DAW paperback depicts a scene from the book, and is fairly faithful to the book. The young man dressed in red is Rune, and he did indeed climb up the cathedral to confront and harrass the spinner. The red cap and red long johns are true to the book.

The alien creature is Mordak, the spinner, and the illustration is pretty accurate to the description in the book. The only quibbles are his hands and feet. Here is the description from the book:

[Mordak's] body had a human form of sorts while the hair on his head was long and stringy.
Shock after shock ripped through his brain as he observed Mordak in all his alienness: sunken blue eyes, slitted nostrils, mouth stretching from ear to ear, gray and slick all over with only a full round pouch where the genitals should be, bony knees, a lump in the center of the chest, feet that were mere pads with many wispy protrusions, like brushes. Hands the same, brushes with each bristle curling and moving independently.

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