First published back in June of 1995, British horror author Simon Clark’s second novel to see publication entitled ‘Blood Crazy’ was released just three months after his debut novel ‘Nailed By The Heart’ (1995). ‘Blood Crazy’ was originally to be titled as ‘Testament’, but as a last minute decision, Clark’s publishers convinced him to change the title because it made it sound too much like a non-fiction book.
It seemed like just another summer’s day when it all went to hell for everyone…everywhere. For seventeen-year-old Nick Aten, it all came crashing down on him in a surreal daze. The discovery of his younger brother’s mutilated corpse in his destroyed bedroom was what got him out of the house and looking for vengeance. It was only when his friend Steve Price got past Nick’s single-minded ranting that he was able to explain to him the monumentally terrifying situation that had taken place.
For seemingly no reason at all, the entire adult population had suddenly turned on their children and savagely slaughtered them without a hint of remorse. All across their hometown of Doncaster, the mass murder of youths was washing the streets in blood. Every single adult, without exception, had become affected by this sudden uncontrollable urge to kill their young.
And before he knew it, Nick was alone and running for his life. His good friend Steve Price left in a lifeless bloody heap after they were attacked by a marauding pack of crazed adults. With his friend now dead, Nick takes off in a car he quickly acquires, trying to leave Doncaster and hopefully getting himself to safety. En route he spots three young girls that are about to become the next victims to a gang of blood-crazed adults. Nick comes to their rescue just before their broken down car is engulfed by the crazies. They turn out to be a girl of a similar age to him named Sarah Hayes and her two younger sisters Annie and Vicki.
But what they thought was just a localised hell on earth turns out to be far far worse than they could have ever thought possible. This terrifying situation has taken place everywhere. All across the country, adults have turned into blood-crazed maniacs, hell-bent on slaughtering their children. With the realisation that nowhere is safe, Nick and the girls take up safety in numbers by joining an expanding community of fellow youths who are already getting themselves organised under the supervision of a strong-minded teenager named Dave Middleton. Food, shelter and protection against the adults being their top priority.
As their community expands, the decision is made to move to a larger and more secure premises which they could fortify against the attacking adults, and hopefully over time, start to make into a permanent home where they can grow their own crops, and farm their own animals. They choose a nearby hotel in Eskdale, which offers a good forty rooms, a reasonably isolated location and a hefty stone wall encircling the property. But around them the adult threat is changing. The adults are banding together, their ranks swelling as they keep watch over the terrified youths.
Meanwhile trouble is stirring within their community. With the initial shock of the mass slaughter now wearing off, the thuggish youths amongst their numbers are beginning to cause problems. And when the ‘Steering Committee’ that had been running the show is suddenly taken over under the threat of violence, the situation in Eskdale quickly turns sour. Madness it seems is now everywhere...
For a rollercoaster of a ride, ‘Blood Crazy’ delivers the thrills and spills of a manic action-packed post-apocalyptic feast in absolute abundance. Think of a natural marriage between William Golding’s ‘Lord Of The Flies’ (1954) and the likes of Richard Laymon’s ‘One Rainy Night’ (1991), Jim Starlin & Daina Graziunas’ ‘Among Madmen’ (1990) and even Terry Nation’s ‘Survivors’ (1976). More recently David Moody’s ‘Hater’ (2006) trilogy, Stephen King’s ‘Cell’ (2006) and Rhys Thomas’ ‘On The Third Day’ (2010) have trod similar ground, to name but a few.
Indeed, Clark’s forth novel to see publication ‘King Blood’ (1997) had a number of similarities, both in the sudden post-apocalyptic setting, the eerie and altogether strange things that start to take place, and the explanatory psychological twists that Clark’s throws in for good measure.
The initial violence of the post-apocalyptic setting is somewhat tame in comparison to many of the similar ‘overnight violent outbreaks’ that we have seen in other novels. However, Clark does throw in a handful of gut-wrenching post-violence atrocities that are pretty darn strong. Still, when stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the in-your-face early brutality of the likes of James Herbert’s ‘The Fog’ (1975), Clark’s ‘Blood Crazy’ is a veritable walk in the park.
Much of the novel is spent working with the ‘Lord Of The Flies’ (1954) style premise. With the hostile takeover of the Eskdale community, orchestrated by the handful of thugs that do-gooder Dave Middleton had dimwittedly admitted into their group, the novel moves away from the adult threat almost entirely and instead concentrates on this whole new youth-go-wild angle. It works in a very mish-mashed way. And utilising the more down-to-earth evil of these sadistic thugs, the barbaric violence on display suddenly feels a lot more hard-hitting.
Clark throws in an inventive punishment game of ‘carrying the can’, whereby a terrified youth is chained to a length of steel piping crammed with explosives and a ten-minute fuse is lit. The desperate victim then has a mad race down to the nearby village, a scramble up the church tower to the very top where they will find the key to release them from their explosive load. At a good run, the task is only just possible. But the end result is more often than not downright chilling.
Characterisation is pretty standard throughout the length of the novel. Our principal protagonist in Nick Aten (who narrates the storyline in a semi-diary format) is moderately fleshed-out and a little on the corny side with his relaxed badboy-cum-goodguy image. He also invariably gets all the chicks, which just furthers the exaggerated qualities of such a clichéd character.
Aten’s longstanding nemesis, Tug Slatter, is perhaps the most interesting character to be put in such a high-pressure environment. Slatter is a one-man-army-of-a-thug, who will do almost anything to get his kicks from another’s misery. The interaction of Slatter with Aten and the other members of the young community make for some very intriguing (and compelling) reading.
The novel does have its faults. Clark’s sudden rush to have the whole situation explained away in a matter of a clumsy (and frankly quite annoying) block of chapters is certainly one of them. But I can’t be too critical of the novel, because I have to admit, its one hell of an entertaining read. The pace is pretty much constant hell-for-leather madness from the word go. Some of the imaginative action sequences are as inspired as they are truly enjoyable to read. And the violent delights just keep on coming until the very end. It’s just a damn good read.
The novel runs for a total of 453 pages.
© DLS Reviews