Horror Review: Saurian by William Schoell (1992, Leisure)

in Books12 days ago (edited)


Source: My own scan.

In 1957, the seaside row of shacks and stilt-housing known as Beachside, Florida was wiped off the map. Over one hundred men, women, and children lost their lives that night as the community was flattened and destroyed by what authorities could only assume was a freak act of nature, a hurricane or typhoon which obliterated everything in its path. But one survivor, Tommy Bartlett, was witness to the truth. The destruction of Beachside was perpetrated by no storm or tidal wave -- Beachside was destroyed by a monstrosity which crawled out of the ocean. He watched it flatten his house. He watched it eat his daddy. And he never forgot the strange, almost human eyes upon its face.

Now, thirty years later, Tom Bartlett is all grown up. A moderately wealthy entrepreneur, co-owner of an upscale restaurant, with a pretty woman at his side, he's long since suppressed the nightmare which wiped out his childhood home and family. But something keeps gnawing at Tom's memories, forcing him to remember things he'd just as soon forget. The beast which obliterated Beachside has returned. At first, it's ships at sea suffering the cruel fate. But as the creature becomes more brazen, land-based attacks escalate. More people are dying. Tom feels himself being pulled back to 1957, back to Beachside, back to face the terror which is slowly unravelling what's left of his sanity. But how can he possibly hope to destroy a creature millions of years old, a creature larger than the biggest dinosaur to ever walk the Earth, a creature which is, even now, hunting him to finish what it started three decades earlier?

OK, confession time: I'm a huge sucker for 80's and 90's creature feature horror books. Blame my early childhood fascination with the likes of King Kong and Godzilla, but give me some monstrosity walking the earth, popping people like candy corn and reducing whole city blocks to cinderblocks and splinters, and you have my total attention. I've read plenty of animal attack books over the years, but I've never read anything as brazenly throw-shit-at-the-wall-and-watch-it-all-stick as Saurian.

In Jaws, the killer is a simple Great White Shark. In The Meg, it's a living anachronism in the form of a Megalodon, which makes the Great White look like a yappy terrier. In Carnivore, the rampaging monster is a genuine (if radiation-mutated) Tyrannosaurus Rex. William Schoell looked at all of those and scoffed. "Why," Schoell must have wondered, "should I make the villain of my story a simple sea-going monstrosity when, and hear me out here, I could make it a Donald Trump analog who, in addition to being an amoral real estate mogul who devastates communities in order to buy them at rock-bottom prices and turn them into upscale condominiums, is also a millions-of-years-old psychic alien shape-shifting dinosaur/mammalian hybrid capable of assuming a size which dwarfs the largest land animals of the prehistoric era, and can only be defeated by shape-shifting-psychic-battlefucking another of his own kind?"

I'm not making any of that up. That is literally the plot of Saurian, and if you have a problem with that, lose my number right now, because weirdness of this caliber is the primary reason I read horror. Maybe if Catcher in the Rye featured more rampaging shape-shifting alien/dinosaur hybrids instead of dorks bitching to hookers about phonies, it wouldn't be the bane of high school English classes everywhere.

Saurian is 365 pages of people flying off the handle entirely at random, zero character development, ridiculous assertions piled upon even more ridiculous assertions, digressions about the lack of cleanliness in homes, and vapid morons being stomped upon and eaten. It is only a novel by virtue of the fact it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Secondary and tertiary characters are birthed and discarded like cheese wrappers. Despite weighing over 200 tons and being the size of a small building, somehow there are never any witnesses to the creature's attacks, even when it beaches itself and rampages across Miami, hunting for our protagonist. The ending is as bonkers as you're imagining from my explanation of how the creature can be defeated. A lesser author would look at the manuscript vomited forth from his typewriter and considered a change of careers, but William Schoell leaned into that shit like he was doing the Smooth Criminal tilt and dared his publisher to reject this idea. His publisher was Leisure which, in the 80's, was barely a tier above Zebra as far as fucks they gave about the books they barfed onto store shelves, so there was zero chance of that happening.

Schoell knows jack-all about character development, but he can bodyslam letters into grammatically-correct sentences 97% of the time, and that's all you need for this kind of sub-basement level, Z-grade entertainment. You could write a better horror novel than Saurian. I could write a better horror novel than Saurian. But neither of us could have written Saurian, because it simply would not have occurred to us that you could write Saurian. William Schoell exists solely to remind us that no one can do what he did, and Saurian is his crown jewel in the morass of zero-fucks-given creature features of the era. It is worth precisely as many stars as you feel it warrants after reading this review, and where you fall on that scale will determine whether you've just added every book of his to your To-Be-Read pile, or contemplated deleting your Goodreads account for the betterment of humanity.


This sounds amazing! Would love to read it and not just because you are a great storyteller and writer.

At first, I thought I was reading a horror movie review and then I realized it was a horror book.

Wish I could get my hands on this as it sounds like the kind of entertainment that I could use in my life to unwind from the other information and intellectual stuff that I usually feed my brain with.

Thanks, Vincent! The bad news is this book has been out of print for years, and physical copies tend to go for upwards of $15 or more depending on condition. The good news is that Schoell's horror titles have been released on Kindle in the $4.99 range, so at least there are ebook options available. :)

Cheers for the heads up. I will consider getting it for kindle.

Yo. Wow.

First of all this book sounds incredible. I rarely buy new books as cheap/used book thrifting has become such a hobby of mine but this sounds like something I definitely want to keep my eye out for. Or maybe even actually seek out haha. Luckily the title is easy to remember.

But also your writing style is on point. I really enjoyed reading that. You have just earned yourself a new follower

Thanks, @herbertholmes2! I hope I'll continue to earn your followership in the future. Saurian runs about $15 on the second-hand market, but all of his backlist has been released on Kindle in the $4.99 range, so it's there for anyone to plunder. I wish you the best of enjoyment should you decide to hop on the roller coaster. :)

As you're the only other horror nerd aside from myself I have found thus far on this platform, I highly doubt you will lose my followership. Judging by your bio we have a lot in common. Other than not becoming homeless. I did my time there..

I can't do kindle. It's great for people who can do it, but the whole computer-screen reading thing isn't for me. Maybe if I actually had a Kindle itself, or a tablet, it would be different. But not for novels, anyway. There's a certain satisfaction I get out of holding a book in my hands..

This book sounds exactly like the so-awful-it's-amazing tripe that my partner would love and that I would just want to use as ammo to headshot people I don't like.

I don't do headshots, they're dangerous, but sometimes I really want to

But I'm glad these abominations exist because I actually quite enjoy reviews like this XD

Abominations like these are absolutely the reason I got into reading horror. No other genre on the planet tolerates, much less encourages, rampantly illogical nonsense the way Horror does, and when something like this emerges, it's a cause for celebration!

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy my more literate and A-tier writers like King and Barker. You can't always eat junk food after all. But guys like Johnstone and Schoell are the reasons I scour second-hand stores. :)

This badly needs to be the next feature on 372 Pages We'll Never Get Back!

I wonder if they take suggestions? I've never heard of this podcast before now. :)

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