First published back in January of 1980, Eli Cantor’s novel ‘The Nest’ was released under the pseudonym of Gregory A Douglas. Interestingly, Cantor credits his true identity at the beginning of the book with the following passage:
“Thanks are due to novelist Eli Cantor for suggesting that an island could be terrorized by an invasion of mutant insects as by killer sharks off its beaches.”
The book was later (very loosely) adapted into the 1988 film of the same title starring Robert Lansing, Lisa Langlois, Franc Luz and Terri Treas. The film was directed by Terence H Winkless.
On Yarkie Island off Cape Cod, a worrying mass of rats are seen leaping from the island’s rubbish dump in obvious death throws. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Carr’s friend, Bonnie Taylor, has taken Captain Elias Johnson’s (Carr’s grandfather) dog ‘Sharky’ for a walk into the local woods. However, lurking in the woods are hordes of giant flesh-eating cockroaches that make short work of Sharky; devouring the dog in mere seconds. In fear for her own life, but not having witnessed how Sharky met this horrific demise, Bonnie runs from the woods to go and inform Johnson and her friend Elizabeth of the tragic death of Sharky’s death.
After the rubbish dump worker, Russell Homer, reports a huge amount of unprecedented activity from rats in the local vicinity, the residents of Yarkie Island begin to suspect that rabid rats are responsible for poor Sharky’s death. And it’s not long before Johnson and fisherman, Craig Soaras, are nearly attacked by a feral rat in the woods, which only add further strength to their theory of rabid rats being responsible.
Knowing that they must act fast on this problem before it escalates any further, Johnson contacts his friend, Dr Peter Hubbard, a Harvard scientist, to come to the island to help with their dilemma. And upon arriving, Hubbard quickly discovers the shocking truth that lurks on the island. The cockroaches have moved on from devouring mere rats and dogs and are instead now attacking the local community. Suddenly residents are being picked off one at a time by well-organised hordes of these giant cockroaches.
Deeply concerned about the dangerous predicament that Yarkie Island now faces, Hubbard contacts his co-worker Dr Wanda Lindstorm who specialises in insect biology; asking her to help him to investigate and eliminate this terrible new threat. Lindstorm duly arrives on the island and together with a select number of the local community, they begin the process of trying to understand what exactly they are dealing with.
And it soon becomes apparent that the cockroaches are not just acting on their individual impulses to attack, but are in fact acting under the instructions of a far greater intelligence stemming from their nest. With this new horrifying revelation comes a much more deadly and serious threat. Hubbard, Lindstorm, and the others need to locate the nest before the cockroaches manage to claim any more victims. Or worse still, before the cockroaches make their way beyond the island’s limits...
Author Eli Cantor (aka Gregory Douglas) starts off the tale with a surprisingly cautious pace; setting down the initial building blocks for the story’s premise in a very thorough fashion, whilst introducing the various principal characters that are to play out their own roles in the unfolding tale. The initial attacks are slow to come around and the scientist’s subsequent investigations into the circumstances surrounding them are almost unbearably slow-paced. Furthermore, Cantor spends far too long playing with the notion of this misidentified threat lying with the rats, which only goes to infuriate the reader even more.
However, once the five-inch cockroaches are identified as being the really monsters behind the savage attacks, Cantor begins to really step-up the novel’s pace; relishing in the bursts of pure vintage-pulp butchery. Victim after victim now fall to the scurrying hordes of flesh-eating cockroaches. And Cantor keeps building on the gory carnage that ensues, with even greater waves of cockroach attacks hitting the seemingly defenceless community of Yarkie Island.
With the gore-drenched-pulp mood now firmly established, Cantor delivers a pure edge-of-the-seat chapter whereby a large number of local school children are slaughtered by the monstrous cockroaches. In true pulp-horror-cum-splatterpunk fashion, Cantor pours on an abundance of graphic gore to the utterly over-the-top slaughter taking place.
Not wanting to have the novel peak at this dramatic half-way point, Cantor ups the general level of attacks and their overall graphic nature from here on in. Indeed, the cockroach attacks suddenly become more fierce and dramatic; with the volumes of cockroaches in each attack increasing tenfold.
These wildly outlandish and utterly over-the-top chapters are unfortunately broken up a little too often by excessive amounts of scientific background and the respective justification into the reality of these insects. It has to be said that Cantor goes way too far into the biology of these mutant cockroaches, in places being to bore the reader with the sheer volume of information on the insect biology.
However, once back on track, the storyline builds to a pretty darn dramatic conclusion, with the unveiling of ‘the nest’. Strangely, the novel appears to conclude slightly earlier than its page count, until Cantor then adds on a further and highly unnecessary sex scene before diving into a second dramatic finale to finally conclude the novel with.
All in all, it has to be said that the novel is a thoroughly enjoyable read; delivering some great creature feature / pulp horror action in the vein of James Herbert, Shaun Hutson, Guy N Smith etc. Cantor describes the cockroach attacks with a sheer abundance of graphic gore that is sure to please any fan of this niche (and sometimes forgotten) corner of the horror market. Furthermore, the underlying subplot of a controlling and intelligent nest is a clever twist to the subgenre, adding an intriguing additional level to the tale.
The characters are only shallowly developed with somewhat cardboard personalities to each one. However, this does not detract too much from the reader’s overall enjoyment; instead pushing for a more plot-based and action-packed thrust.
The novel runs for a total of 448 pages.
© DLS Reviews