By James Herbert
The first of the sequels to The Rats is a vast improvement to the original in terms of suspense and action. What the book lacks in originality now, due to it being a sequel, it definitely makes up for in horror and gore. The author’s writing has really come a long way in the intervening years and by the time of writing this, his 6th novel, you can really recognise the style of writing as being essentially Herbert.
Lair brings subtle differences to the Rats saga, this time being set in the countryside rather than a city environment and rather than this being just a difference to make create a different story, Herbert pulls it off really well. You can feel the rats watching you along with all the other wildlife in the forest and this feels a lot truer in this country setting. Where the original Rats introduced us to a mutated rat species, what Lair does is bring that horror home with a realistic twist as you imagine the rats swarming through the grasses, hidden from sight. Yes, just there, two feet to your left.
It is slightly longer than the original, and this is a sign that Herbert was growing used to accepting his talent as a writer. Stretching himself to write a more fuller story.
The novel isn’t without its faults however, and again shows how typical horror books of the seventies do lack some now obvious strategies to deal with the situations the protagonists find themselves in. Kevlar, although around during the time of writing , isn’t mentioned and you just feel things like this would have brought the feel of the book into a more modern century. Likewise, and yes I do say it again, the mobile phone. All in all though for the time it was written it does hold more promise for the writer, certainly the book feels scarier in a lot of ways. There are moments of erotica which seemed to have wormed their way into a lot of horror books of this era, and I get the feeling that a lot of publishers must have wanted this element adding in order to sell the books, as well as gear them towards a more masculine audience.
The ending of Lair does leave it open once more, much the same as The Rats did and even without knowing Herbert’s back catalogue you do still get the feeling there is more to come from him regarding these pesky rodents.
Written on 15th October 2013 by Arron .