Phantom (Limb) Busters – A review of Scott Cole’s SuperGhost

SuperGhost by Scott Cole
Published by Eraserhead Press
Review by Billy Lyons

They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Never has such a statement been as true as it is in Scott Cole’s quirky, humorous, and very fun novel, SuperGhost.

Darren Legend, like many amputees, has suffered from phantom limb pain ever since the day he lost his right arm in a tragic accident. The itching and tingling sensations he feels where his arm was once located is an almost constant source of pain and annoyance. His good friend Trina suggests that an amputee support group might help him find a solution to his pain. Darren is doubtful, but agrees to give it a try.

One night, as Darren and Trina are making their way to one of the meetings, they are approached by Doctor Griffin Rains. Dr. Rains claims that he has invented a cure for the phantom limb syndrome and offers to rid Darren of his pain once and for all. Darren accepts Rains’ business card, but only out of politeness. Both Darren and Trina find the good doctor to be more than a little bit odd.

Nevertheless, Dr. Rains shows up at Darren’s apartment a couple of days later and renders him unconscious before Darren can do anything to stop him. Once Darren is knocked out, Rains hooks what is left of Darren’s right arm to a contraption of his own creation that he calls the Phantom Zapper. When Darren comes to, the doctor is gone, and so is his phantom limb.

At first, Darren is pleased to be rid of the pain, but it isn’t long before he begins to experience another sort of discomfort in the form of a vague depression and anxiety. So, with Trina’s help, he tracks down another victim of Dr. Raines’ Phantom Zapper, a former Olympic athlete named Melissa. Melissa is experiencing the same negative side effects from Rains’ treatment as Darren, so she joins Darren and Trina in an investigation of the doctor. They soon discover that Rains has created a massive, extremely destructive spectre from the phantom limbs he has stolen from them and many other amputees. It also becomes clear that Rains intends to use his creation to exact bloody revenge on those he feels has wronged him, along with anyone else that happens to get in his way. Together, the three friends must race to stop the mad doctor before he can release his SuperGhost onto an unsuspecting world.

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One of SuperGhosts main strengths is its wry humor, which is ample throughout. The well-written badinage between the main characters provides some very welcome comic relief as the story grows tense and moves into its many scary moments. Combining chills and laughs is often attempted in speculative fiction, but unfortunately, it fails much more often than it succeeds. The humor in SuperGhost is a rare, but very welcome, exception to the rule.

Another strength to be found in SuperGhost is its rich, well-developed characterizations. I sympathized with Darren, Trina, and Melissa very early in the story, so I genuinely cared about how things would turn out for them in the end. At the same time, the story’s villain, Dr. Rains, was delightfully evil and easy for me to hate.

SuperGhost is a fun novel that combines a very original premise with well-developed characters and a fast-moving plot. I read it straight through in one sitting, which is something I almost never do unless the book hooks me from the beginning and doesn’t let go. As a debut novelist, Scott Cole shows a great deal of promise, and I look forward to reading more from him in the future.

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