FURNACE by Joseph Williams (Severed Press)
When Lieutenant Michael Chalmers, navigator of the Rockne Hummel spaceship, wakes up early from hyper-sleep to find the ship is off course, things are tense, but are only heating up. Forced to take the ship down on a mysterious planet called Furnace, Lieutenant Chalmers is immediately struck with horrific visions and finds himself and the crew under attack. He survives the first battle, wounded and struggling, but he has no idea what awaits him on this desolate planet. Chalmers takes us through his journey in the form of an official narrative document to explain what happened on the planet of Furnace. How does that many people die and what explanation is there for such atrocity? Oh, there’s an explanation all right.
Joseph Williams is a hell of a writer. I’m not the biggest science fiction fan, but his ability to effortlessly weave a narrative culled me into the story, and before I knew it I realized that FURNACE is far more than just another sci-fi novel about a spaceship discovering some strange planet with odd inhabitants like an episode of Star Trek. Far more. There’s a lot going on in FURNACE and soon enough you realize that Williams is straddling horror and science fiction and he does it well. The planet of Furnace is full of dirty tricks, but there’s also a lot going on in our narrator’s haunted mind that causes the reader to feel for him and root him on as he struggles his way through a planet that seems bent on killing him.
Isolation, claustrophobia, and the disastrous consequences of extreme alienation are only a few themes coursing through the pages of FURNACE, a book that is intent on taking the reader through a veritable roller coaster of intensity that never lets go. To be isolated in a foreign land would be bad enough and certainly cause overwhelming loneliness, but imagine the horror of a planet with clown demons, corpses aplenty, maddening visions, and the ability to get inside your head and fuck with you. But what exactly is Furnace? That’s the mystery, the secret that will shatter your mind in the end, and just another reason to read this book.
For fans of science fiction (clearly, just look at the cover), but more importantly (at least for this reviewer), for fans of horror, yes horror!, for the horror abounds and the intensity of FURNACE is something of a force that’s trajectory is aimed right for your cerebral cortex. You will not soon forget this novel after reading it, for the nightmarish imagery Williams creates and the stomach dropping terror you feel as you are guided through the disastrous events that occurred on a planet of pure evil through the no-nonsense narration of our brave, yet troubled navigator Lieutenant Michael Chalmers will stick to the inner walls of your mind like literary paste. (Robert Essig)