Squelch, Slither, & Slime – John Halkin (Review)

There are reports of new, never-before seen creatures in the South of England. At first, people think little of them, dismissing them as fictional or no more dangerous than ferrets. But the creatures grow, and multiply, and spread, their lust for human flesh increasing every day. As the death toll rises, humanity is forced to confront a new and horrifying idea: we are no longer top of the food chain.

The above description applies equally well to three different books, all by John Halkin, and all having a single-word title beginning with “S”. In Squelch, the menace is large, carnivorous caterpillars and poison-spitting moths. In Slither, hypnotic worms (the reptile-kind, limbless lizards) hunt humans in the sewers. And in Slime, evil hordes of jellyfish are the greatest threat humanity has ever faced.

Continue reading “Squelch, Slither, & Slime – John Halkin (Review)”

Thresher – Michael Cole (Review)

thresher.pngSome things just naturally belong together: horses and carriages, swallows and summer, quiet seaside towns that need a lucrative tourist season and giant shark attacks.

The peaceful seaside town of Merit is about to host a sailing competition. There’s a lot of opportunity for profit, and the acting mayor has decreed that nothing must go wrong. Unfortunately, there’s something in the water.

A rookie cop gets partnered with an alcoholic veteran; a marine biologist makes the find of his career; an acting Mayor ignores the truth. And beneath the waves, something hunts. Something vast and merciless and hungry. Continue reading “Thresher – Michael Cole (Review)”

Death Crawlers – Gerry Griffiths (Review)

51L813kfIJL._SY346_An entomologist’s plane goes down in a national park, releasing giant centipedes into rural America. The arthropods are aggressive, numerous, and venomous, attacking animals and people alike.

A cast of characters including a small-town sheriff, a (different) entomologist and a seedy trucker find themselves locked in an unexpected and desperate battle for survival.   Continue reading “Death Crawlers – Gerry Griffiths (Review)”

Feed – Michael Bray (Review)

51+6gbKFBqLThe dive bars of Australia are filled with unlikely and unverified rumours. Rumours of an area where ships go mysteriously missing. Rumours of sunken wrecks and scattered bars of shining gold. Rumours – the most ridiculous and unbelievable of all, of a vast dark shape gliding through the water, territorial and shockingly violent.

Tyler Matthews is an alcoholic with an ex-wife and a rapidly shrinking bank account. A scarred stranger, met in yet another bar, offers him a chance at solving the third of those issues. All he has to do is retrieve a possibly-mythical fortune while avoiding an almost-certainly mythical prehistoric shark.

Feed is a story of treasure hunting, redemption, and man-eating marine fauna. It’s also a story about cannibalism, desperation, and exactly how far people will go to survive.
Continue reading “Feed – Michael Bray (Review)”

Who Goes there ? – John W. Campbell (Review)

51Qyo6lkqhLJohn Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) is one of the greatest horror films ever made. It’s a masterpiece of suspense and tension, demonstrating – point by point – the key ingredients of horror. In addition, the skilled use of practical special effects gives it a visceral kick that you very rarely find in later films. It’s brilliant, and I recommend that everyone watches it at least once.

Until recently, I didn’t know it was based on anything. I knew that there was at least one  story inspired by it – Peter Watt’s The Things – but I didn’t know that the film itself was based on a short story. That story is John W. Campbell’s Who Goes There? Continue reading “Who Goes there ? – John W. Campbell (Review)”

Eight – W. W. Mortensen (Review)

EDeep in the jungles of South America, an expedition searches for a lost city and a new source of potentially limitless power. But something is stirring in the ancient ruins – something ancient, dangerous, and hungry.

Rebecca Riley, an entomologist, joins the expedition at the request of her former partner, facing her deepest fears in search of his deepest desire. What was promised to be a journey of scientific discover quickly becomes a desperate struggle for survival.
Continue reading “Eight – W. W. Mortensen (Review)”

Three Reasons to Read Steve Alten’s “Meg” series

I’ve read a lot of books, and watched a lot of films, about monsters. In so far as “monster attacks group of people” is a genre, it’s one of my preferred genres. I have thrilled to tales of liopleurodons, Humboldt squid, sabre-tooth tigers and titanoboas. I have watched, due to the prominence of sharks as the antagonist, countless films with a two word title in which the second word is “shark” (or, to be fair, “sharks”). The first word of the title allows more variation, including “snow“, “swamp“, “Jurassic“, and “raging“. I’ve even had the privilege of enjoying a whole bunch of works which just jammed two words together to create the title, like Sharknado, Sharktopus, and Piranhaconda

I mention these works to establish that I know what I’m talking about here, rather than as recommendations. I’m not recommending them because, in all this time of monster books and films, a common element has come clear: most of these works are absolutely terrible. Sturgeon’s Revelation states that 90% of everything is awful, but I believe monster stories to be a special case; I think the percentage for this specific genre might be closer to 98%.

For some reason, authors seem to feel that they can get away with more poorly-written books than in other genres. This might be attributable to the fact that a higher proportion of monster books seem to be self-published than in other genres, so there’s no one to enforce editing and proofreading. I don’t think that’s entirely it, as there are many traditionally published monster books that are terrible, and several well-designed self-published ones. In general, it just seems that monster books are where authors dump all their plot holes and inconsistent characterisation – it’s not a genre that is taken that seriously, or regarded very highly.

Now, this doesn’t particularly bother me. I like monster stories enough that despite (and occasionally because of) their terribleness, I still enjoy them. I will struggle through countless clumsy coincidences and grammatical errors to read about a deranged businessman being devoured by ptero-wasps. However, I’m aware that not everyone is as forgiving of, or as engaged in, the genre as I am.

MEG1I thought I’d use this post, after trashing the genre as a whole, to recommend an author who not only writes monsters books, but does so well. One of the few authors who manages to write a coherent plot in coherent English that’s also about a shark killing people.

Steve Alten’s “Meg” series is one of the stand-outs of the monster genre. The books are based around the idea that Carcharodon Megalodon, an ancestor of today’s great white shark, survived into the modern era; when one of these antediluvian murder machines comes into contact with humans, it’s up to a tortured marine biologist to stop the carnage. Continue reading “Three Reasons to Read Steve Alten’s “Meg” series”