First published back in November of 1982, Shaun Hutson’s now cult classic pulp horror / splatterpunk extravaganza entitled ‘Slugs’ burst onto the horror scene; jumping onto the popular ‘creatures vs mankind’ bandwagon after the unprecedented success of James Herberts debut novel ‘The Rats’ (1974).  The novel resonated with this newly formed gore hungry audience; perfectly capturing the over-the-top splatter elements and outrageously preposterous premise required to set the novel above the multitude of similarly themed publications that were saturating the market at the time.

DLS Synopsis:
Elderly pensioner, Ron Bell, returns home after a heavy session drinking.  Stumbling around his home, he crashes into his coffee table and topples to the floor in an unconscious drunken heap.  As his prone body lies on the floor, unmoving but alive, they move in en masse; hungry to devour their victim.

The following day Merton’s local Council Health Inspector - Mike Brady, arrives at Bell’s home with bailiff - Archie Reece, to write a report on the unacceptable state of the building.  However, when they arrive at the property, they soon discover that Bell won’t be doing much in the way of sorting out the cleanliness of the building.  For upon breaking in to the property they find his mutilated corpse on the floor, surrounded by a bizarre shiny substance.

Elsewhere, with the sun beating down on the town of Merton, Harold Morris decides it’s a good day for a spot of gardening.  As he pulls on his gardening gloves, a searing pain shoots up from his now gloved hand.  Removing the glove, he watches in shock as his hand is slowly eaten away by a number of thick black-bodied gastropods.  His wife comes running at the sound of his screaming to find Harold’s hand almost entirely consumed by the slugs.  Harold decides he has one option left – his wife must severe his hand off at the wrist to rid himself of these carnivores beasts.

Before long Brady himself is attacked by one of these giant slugs as he works on his garden.  After the vicious encounter with this most unlikely of attackers, Brady sets about trying to investigate what is going on with these puzzlingly aggressive black slugs.  But as he starts his investigation into the bizarre concept of carnivorous slugs, suddenly the attacks are everywhere.

The slugs are breeding and their numbers are growing.  Now the idea is no longer something that can be ridiculed – the threat is real.  Nowhere seems safe from the slithering black beasts that hunger for flesh...

DLS Review:
Hutson in his early years was full of ambition and delighted at the prospect of butchering up hapless victims time and time again in the name of horror fiction.  The author’s utter love for conjuring up scenes of carnage and stomach churning splatter is evident throughout these early tales...'Slugs' being no exception.

We begin the novel with the usual cardboard cut-out characters that frequent the pages of the average Hutson novel.  Fine, we can live with that.  After the initial attack on our unconscious friend Ron Bell, the pace of the story is teeth-grindingly slow.  Admittedly this actually helps to build up a great deal of tension and suspense.  We know what’s coming...we knew this just from reading the five-letter title of the novel.  So mounting up the suspense is only delaying what we’re here to read.  To keep the novel moving along, Hutson does throw in a few tantalizing slithers of slug attacks, in quite short but infrequent successions, until finally he’s had enough and lets all hell break loose with his literary love for splatter.

The slug’s attacks are savage and unrelenting from here on.  Hutson avoids any hint of campness or atmosphere-destroying suggestions towards black comedy, as he throws in all he’s got with a surprisingly gripping storyline.  To actually pull off a serious(ish) horror novel with giant black flesh hungry slugs on the rampage as the plot is certainly no small feat. 

What must be said is that once the novel gets going, it really gets going.  The attacks keep coming, each one depicted with such a gore-hungry glee that you can’t help but get wrapped up in the whole unrelenting carnage of it all.

As the novel begins to show the very first signs of getting a little on the repetitive side, Hutson decides to call it a day and throws together an unforgivably weak ending.  As unimaginative and uninspired as the ending may be, it does however all seems to sit fine in with the overall pulpy enjoyment of the tale.  So it’s not going to get you hanging on to the edge of your seat....it’s not going to leave you breathless and thirsting for more....but what it does do, and it does this very well, is entertain the reader, from start to finish.  And for that I will most certainly salute the author.

The novel runs for a total of 208 pages and was later adapted into the 1988 b-movie monstrosity of the same name, directed by exploitation-master Juan Piquer Simon.

© DLS Reviews

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