The Ancient (2002) Muriel Gray, HarperCollins, £6.99, pbk, 358pp, ISBN 0-00-649641-5
The supertanker MV Lysicrates sets sail for America loaded with rubbish for ballast and hitchhiker Esther Mulholland, a military student. But amongst the trash there is a stowaway, a reborn South American deity seeking to become whole. The Philippino crew is anxious enough, since it is bad luck to have a single female passenger aboard, but when members of the crew start dying horribly their anxiety quickly turns to terror. The Captain keeps his own counsel and the first mate, Matthew Cotton, is an alcoholic, but can Esther become a heroine before she becomes a victim...?
Yep, it's Alien on the high seas, complete with Ripley-esque heroine, and not bad for all that. Gray, as a broadcaster, has always been a laugh, and she obviously had great fun turning out this well-written, if somewhat predictable, horror story. Lots of nice touches and some genuinely gruesome moments make this a nice read. The humour isn't forced, the research is thorough, and if the plot's a retread it's nonetheless carried off with aplomb. A beachreader, yes, but a good one. Give it a go.
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