First published back in July of 1979, Guy N Smith’s rampaging-swarm novel entitled ‘Locusts’ was one of his earlier novels within the popular and time-tested ‘creatures vs mankind’ subgenre.

DLS Synopsis:
Summertime, and the heatwave that has stayed with Britain for the entirety of the  summer so far has brought about a major drought to many areas across the country.  One of which is the Shropshire hills where Alan Alton has recently purchased an old beaten down property including a fair few acres of land, from local farmer Tommy Hatherton.  Together with his wife Shelia and their eight-year-old son David, the Alton family are making a fresh start in the countryside, with a plan of self-sufficiency living off their recently purchased land.

However, as the family are slowly settling in to their new rural lifestyles, young David discovers the ravaged body of a dead tramp by the name of Mac.  Traumatized by the image of the dead body, David suddenly shies away from his previous passion for all things nature (particularly with regards to insects).

Meanwhile, Alan discovers a dead locust protruding from a partially cracked shell, nestled away in with a box of rotting Pennsylvanian peaches that they were given as a gift by their Uncle Fred.  His fears at the unusual sighting of this pest within the UK mounts further when a number of bizarre deaths start cropping up around the area.

Their closest neighbour, Pat Emmerton, who runs a nearby stables with her husband Steve, are the next to be hit by tragedy when a swarm of locusts scares one of their horses into trampling Steve to death.

Forest ranger Peter Ditton and his trusty Labrador, Kanga, are next to fall victim to the swarming terror of the locusts.  The sheer volumes of these winged insects cover everything and everyone in their wake, causing suffocation or madness.  With the landscape being devoured at such a devastating rate, the locusts are now beginning to resort to purposefully attacking any wildlife or indeed people that find themselves in their path.

It appears that a combination of sheer chance and freakish bad luck has seen much of the UK hit by different swarms of locusts, emanating from uniquely different origins.  The prime minister calls a state of emergency whilst the country is put on its knees in the face of the devastating swarms that ravage the unprepared landscape.

Alan Alton attempts to protect his family from the plague of locusts, whilst trying to cope with the distractions of the recently widowed nymphomaniac Pat Emmerton.  With his marriage well and truly on the rocks and Sheila attempting to leave Alan and this god-awful countryside for good, Alan has a multitude of emotional struggles on his hands.

And the swarms of locusts just keep on growing, leaving the landscape desolate and dead in their marauding wake.  No one appears to be safe from the locusts as they move towards the towns and beaches in their constant search for food.  The winged scourge is everywhere and this new enemy is unrelenting and seemingly almost unstoppable...

DLS Review:
The novel sets out as a slow builder, gradually setting down hints and suggestions towards the origination of the recently appearing locusts.  Before the locusts resort to proactively attacking and biting their victims, the deaths that arise are more as a result of suffocation or struck down from the utter fear of the surging winged terror.  The pace soon picks up once the locusts are actively seeking out and attacking their victims, causing horrendous deaths everywhere they go.

The characterisation is full-bodied, with particular attention given towards the sexually charged relationship between Alan Alton and Pat Emmerton.  Indeed, Pat’s wildly nymphomaniac nature seems as unrelenting and unstoppable as the swarms of locusts.  Her obsession with sex and male genitalia create a delightfully sordid subplot to the novel’s main storyline.

As the plagues of locusts continue to ravage the UK, the story begins to take on an almost apocalyptic vibe, with towns and villages being completely annihilated by the hordes of winged insects.  The death toll mounts up steadily, with a cacophony of graphically described deaths delivering a clear picture of the enemy at hand.  Indeed, the psychological element to the locust attacks is vividly detailed with the skill of this true master of pulp horror.  Each and every attack detailed has its very own personal depth of terror to it, executed in such a way that the reader can’t help but squirm in their seat.

‘The War Of The Worlds’ (1898) style ending is both satisfying and thorough.  Furthermore, Alton’s own personal battle climaxes with all the drama and locust-filled action that the storyline requires.  All in all, the novel is a slow burner, that once well and truly on track, delivers a monstrous tale of unrelenting swarming horror.

The novel runs for a total of 230 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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