loulamac’s #CBRV review #71: Slugs by Shaun Hutson

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I first pored over this preposterous horror novel back in the heady days of the early ‘80s, when I was ten years old. It belonged to the elder brother of one of my schoolmates (he also owned James Herbert’s The Rats and The Fog), and I used to read the particularly racy and gory bits aloud to my squealing friends at lunchtime. I’m pleased to report that, while there’s no question that it’s trashy and naff, it has stood the test of time pretty well.

Life is plodding along in the quiet English town of Merton, the hot summer being the worst that people have to deal with. Things are going to get nasty though, as beneath the town’s streets, carnivorous slugs are multiplying, and they’re about to get a taste for human flesh. They first emerge from their lair in the local alcoholic’s cellar to eat him alive when he returns from the pub one night. Health inspector Mike Brady (Chief Martin Brody’s spiritual twin) is one of the first at the scene of carnage and spots slime trails all over the house. When slugs start coming up in his back garden and one tries to bite his finger, he begins to wonder…

All the usual tropes are there, as well as a few borrowed from horror’s kissing cousin the disaster story. There’s the hero who’s the only one who knows what’s going on, and isn’t believed by people in positions of power; there are the sexually adventurous teenagers who come to a messy end; there’s an innocent child who falls victim to the voracious menace (i.e. the slugs). The final raid on the sewer system, where our plucky hero is accompanied by a blue-collar buddy and a scientist, is essentially the final section of Jaws but underground. Not that I mind, if you’re going to borrow, why not borrow from one of the finest creature features of all time?

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