First published back in July of 1984, Shaun Hutson’s novel ‘Erebus’ was one of the earlier additions into his somewhat extensive career as a horror and splatterpunk author. 

DLS Synopsis:
In the quietly quaint British farming town of Wakely, situated just outside of Arkham, the local farmers have recently been getting surprising results from their livestock after feeding them on animal feed supplied by the nearby Vanderburg Chemicals.  No matter which animal it is that the farmers are rearing, this new animal feed accelerates the growth of the animal, making them grow to considerably larger proportions.  But with the changes in the size of the livestock comes a dramatic change in the animals' temperament.  Mares begin to devour their fouls, four foot tall grossly disfigured calves are born bursting out of their mothers, and piglets are savagely gorging on their mothers’ guts. 

Meanwhile, American journalist Jo Ward receives a call from Geoffrey Anderson, a previous employee of Vanderburg Chemicals, asking the jounalist to meet with him urgently.  As her suspicions begin to escalate at the discovery of the oversized livestock and the aggressive behaviour exhibited by the animals, she convinces her paper that she must stay in Wakley a while longer to investigate the matter further.

With the help of the recently returned local - Vic Tyler, Ward uncovers the correlation between Vanderburg Chemicals and the giant and vicious livestock.  However, as they unearth the secrets, horrifying changes begin to appear within the local community.  Around them they witness the townspeoples’ pale skin gradually flaking away, with exposure to sunlight becoming painful to their eyes and a sudden surge in unprecedented brutal attacks beginning to sprout up around the area – each one ending in the consumption of the victims' blood.

‘Project Erebus’ is now firmly underway.  Wakley is quickly sealed off and the changes within the community are allowed to continue.  For in the darkness of the powerless town, nails are extending, prolonged canines are sharpening, and a new breed of vampiric life is now stalking the streets...

DLS Review:
From a novel that sounds like a rather lowbrow rip-off of Richard Matheson’s classic vampiric post-apocalyptic novel ‘I Am Legend’ (1954), Shaun Hutson’s obviously inspired attempt at a similar premise actually reads with a remarkable amount of success.  The copious amounts of bloodshed are present as they always are in a Hutson novel.  The repeated injection of pure splatterpunk shock-value is equally present – with brutal baby murder at the hands of a child, the biting off of a penis during sexual antics, and a veritable litany of other such bizarre blood-frenzied frolics.

The tale utilises a whole host of sub-characters, playing out minor roles that together form a relatively elaborate storyline that is itself entwined with a few slightly out of place subplots.  Although this works for a fast moving, action packed and involved storyline, the strength of the principle plotline does become somewhat diluted down as the novel progresses.

Characterisation...forget it!  Again we have the usual basic and monumentally clichéd characters that explore no real depth of emotion or any other such portrayal of real human qualities.  This is a novel of horror based thrills, with plenty of bloodshed around each and every corner and not much else.

The finale is as extravagant and wildly over-the-top as it is entertaining.  The novel seems to transcend any logical concept of reality and become one-hundred-percent immersed in the whole ‘I Am Legend’ scenario for these final chapters.  Like with Guy N Smith’s pulp-horror extravaganza ‘Thirst’ (1980), Hutson turns the local setting into almost post-apocalyptic proportions, dismissing all notions of the sheer scale of such an epidemic.

All in all I must confess that this was an absolute joy to read.  It’s as exciting and thrilling as it is gory and brutal.  It presses all the right buttons for a mindless piece of splatterpunk fiction.  The storyline is chaotically wild, with such outlandish subplots wrapped in tight the reader can’t help but get drawn into the non-stop action of the tale.

So let’s put aside any literary snobbery and see ‘Erebus’ for what it is – a damn good read.  Nothing more and nothing less.  And for that alone it should be judged.

The novel runs for a total of 309 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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