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The Face-Eater

By Simon Messingham

Book review by Brad Schmidt

That I feel so unmotivated to remember The Face-Eater, let alone review it, is as telling for my final judgment as a quote at the beginning of the novel is for the atmosphere that follows. This quote, from an Antarctic expedition, is - apologies in advance - chilling, in a story that while managing to be fairly suspenseful in execution oddly remains rather bland in retrospect.

It is the twenty-second century, and Proxima II is the first planet settled outside of the Solar System. Earth Officials were remarkably ill-advised in their selection of colonists, despite claiming exactly otherwise; for the pioneering humans are a traumatised, paranoiac group. The Doctor and Sam pose as investigators from Earth, in a quest to discover what exactly could be picking off humans on a near-barren planet.

The ‘main’ enemy - the interestingly titled Face-Eater - which in reality is not so-called for the reasons the blurb claims - is elusive, and absent from the majority of the action. In its place, at first, is the head of the colony, another dictatorial Helen (not too far removed from the other one). Sam is heavily injured yet again, while the Doctor acquires more human functions - in this case, a bladder.

Many of the criticisms levelled at Simon Messingham's work are not unfounded; however, one talent he has shown is a knack for making hackneyed plot devices into tolerable reading. Much like blue cheese, his work is an acquired taste, and just as unappealing - The Face Eater is no exception. I think the main problem in his latest contribution is the after-taste. [2/5]

This item appeared in TSV 57 (July 1999).

Index nodes: The Face-Eater