Want ya'll to know I have a very polite and thoughtful dog. The pollen infesting the South has her congested, and a few days ago she blew a big rope of snot on me. It was gross, but I didn't yell at her or anything, because, hey, she's a dog, she didn't mean it. I just said, "Ah, maaaaan, you snotted on me, goofy!" and petted her. But, somehow she knew that it wasn't nice to blow your nose on folks, so ever since when she has to sneeze, she runs a few yards away from me, sneezes in the other direction, then comes back to get petted. That's manners in the animal kingdom, arrived at through her own recognizance!
I know you don't care about that, but it's true. And, since this is another critter-book post, I felt it was pertinent enough to share. I feel that your heart is warmed, and the sandwich you were eating is ruined.
First, a couple of not-really-reviews of books I read decades ago and don't remember a whole lot about, like I did last time, but forgot to include. I remember liking both of these, though.
The Nest, by Gregory A. Douglas. (Zebra, 1980)
I remember reading this one summer after school had just let out, around 7th grade or so. The cockroach attacks were numerous and gory enough to impress me (the first time I remember seeing intestines in a book!) and I remember it being pretty intense. O' course, I was only 13 or so, so that could be a factor, but a friend of mine picked it up, too, and he also liked it. It pulls in positive reviews on Amazon, too, and they made a movie of it. Might have to re-read it someday.
Nightwing - Martin Cruz Smith. (Jove, 1977)
This author started out doing some of the Nick Carter books (anonymously) and went on to become a bestseller-big-deal dude responsible for things like Gorky Park. I liked this swarms-of-vampire-bats novel enough to start trying to draw my own comic book adaptation of it, which didn't get very far because even as a young teen I had a lot of quit in me. But, at the time, I dug it.
Now, on to the stuff I've actually read (or re-read) recently:
Slugs - Shaun Hutson (Leisure, 1982)
Aiming to be the nastiest of British nasties, this one piles on the gore and slime as a new breed of garden slug attacks mankind with the meat-shredding ferocity of slow-motion piranha. No one is safe as slugs emerge from the ground, infest graves, come out of the plumbing, and fill the sewers. They chew into bodies (or use existing openings as one unlucky girl experiences) and the people they don't gnaw to bits get a blood-fluke-laden disease spread by their slime trails. That'll teach ya to eat snail-mucus! Can they be stopped? Not to the degree that there wasn't a sequel, Breeding Ground. This obviously used James Herbert's The Rats as a pattern and doesn't waste much time on building a plot, focusing instead on the sick slug attacks, which are handled with Hutson's trademark unbridled enthusiasm. Good of its type, also became a movie.
Oddly enough, this book inspired a Twitter post that doubled my follower count and got a better response than anything else I've ever done... even though I thought it was kind of a toss-off. Ya never know what people are gonna like. Hey, I'll take it! Killer snails have been good to me...
Croak - Robin Evans (Hamlyn, 1981)
A British nasty, all right, but it's not quite what you might expect. A freak whirlwind carries mutant toad-spawn across the landscape. One guy (who's just murdered his wife and her lover) is suffocated by a faceful of the jelly, but others aren't so lucky; they consume the toad eggs through an overly-contrived series of unlucky and implausible circumstances. One girl is invaded by gross little tadpole critters who crawl up her vagina. Being attacked by the frog creatures causes the victim to mutate into a toad-person, eating flies and small animals and eventually attacking people while toad-things squirm around in their guts. You don't really get attacks by swarms of toads, though, just the rather silly infected people. There are some sick ideas but the gore is handled a bit timidly and doesn't go over the top the way you want these books to do. And it's pretty boring when no batrachian action is happening, because these characters are scant and cardboard. This is one of the rarer critter-nasties, with hardly any used copies around, and they’re far overpriced when you find ‘em; it’s not bad, really, but a little below average and a lot more intriguing as a concept than as an actual book. It’s strange that the author chose an infected-human slant rather than armies of hopping horrors, but I guess they ran up against the same wall that the movie Frogs did; as repellent as these creatures are, it’s almost impossible to find a way they can actually cause violent harm. But it seems like they could at least try gumming you to death, or give you a good tongue-lashing.
The Coming of the Rats - George H. Smith (Priory, 1961)
Tensions between East and West Germany convince an adman named Steve that nuclear war is coming in 1963, so he stores supplies in a cave outside Los Angeles. After reading that rats can handle twice the radiation that humans can, he takes his girlfriend -- an impossible bratty idiot named Bettirose -- out to his cave as nuclear war erupts. He and his neighbor Pedro and his sexy daughter Rosa try to loot the rubble of nearby towns and fend off evil scavenging rapists, and prepare for a tide of rats that finally show up in about the last ten pages. Very simply-written sleaze with lots of barely-described sex scenes that probably passed for smut at the time. Much of that is rape (even our narrator finally rapes Bettirose when he gets fed up with her). The cast is made up of amazingly stupid characters; one old man keeps trading canned food for money, when money has obviously become worthless and food rare. And Bettirose never seems to grasp the situation, nagging Steve to bring her lipstick and wanting to party with the scuzzy rapists, even though she finds Steve not enough of a gentleman! The rat swarm scene is a long time coming and is pretty ordinary. It’s not bad -- the writing style’s very plain and workmanlike but reads fast enough (it’s less than 160 pages of large oddly-spaced print, and the paperback was printed in Israel!), and it’s not boring, just bewildering. Works better as a Cold War artifact than a critter-horror book.
Oh, did I mention Twitter? You can follow me there.... I have a GREAT idea for a "The Coming Of The Rats" joke. You can also follow our own Kicker Of Elves there. And if you're just starting out, follow anybody I follow... I have reaaaaalllly good taste in Twitter people.