First published back in December of 1985, British author Shaun Hutson’s novel ‘Breeding Ground’ formed the sequel to the author’s creature horror novel ‘Slugs’ (1982).

DLS Synopsis:
Tommy Price had only been in London for two months, but already he was struggling. He’d been eating whatever he could find or steal, spending any money he got his hands on to buy booze. So, when he came across the discarded vegetables from a local greengrocer, he really thought he was in luck. Unfortunately for Tommy, unbeknown to him, there was something black and slimy nestled within the leaves of the lettuce. Something that was going to make Tommy very, very ill.

Only a few hours later and the body of Tommy Price is found collapsed, the corpse hunched over a toilet within a dingy public lavatory. Neither Detective Inspector Ray Grogan nor Detective Sergeant Martin Nicholson are able to understand what they’ve found. The body of a tramp with the entire insides hollowed out, missing all organs and the majority of its flesh. All around the corpse, thick trails of glistening slime.

Unfortunately for the people of London, the tramp’s death would not be an isolated incident. When Tommy Price had bitten into that lettuce, he had come into contact with miniscule infantile slugs hidden within the leaves. With that simple action, the tramp had unwittingly become the host for the slugs, to multiply within him.

The slugs had continued to reproduce and grow within Tommy’s body until finally bursting out from suppurating sores which covered his weakened form. The oversized gastropods had made their way into the trough of the toilet urinals and then down into the pipes, eventually depositing them into the dark sewers below. At the time there was perhaps a hundred of them. There would soon be many more.

London is about to face a threat like that from a nightmare. A colony of flesh-eating slugs have been breeding within the sewers below. Not only do these slugs thrive off human flesh, but their slime is also deadly to the touch. Contact with the viscous mucus from these malevolent slugs results in an infection akin to the plague. Suppurating sores breaking out across the flesh, vast patches of red raw skin, and an aching, throbbing, relentless pain at the base of the skull.

For the infection is the transferal of the slugs’ countless offspring. Those infected become the host. And before they die an excruciating death, the host will be driven insane. Becoming homicidal maniacs before the slugs break out and the next generation of flesh-eating slugs slither from the victims’ remains.

Before long there are countless swarms of the slugs, clambering over each other within the dirty sewers of London. It has become their home before they emerge into the city above, through the drains and pipes and other openings. A hidden away place for them to multiply and grow. A dark labyrinth of tunnels that has become their breeding ground…

DLS Review:
First off, whilst this is undoubtedly the sequel to Hutson’s earlier novel ‘Slugs’ (1982), this follow-up offering is nevertheless a standalone tale. Indeed, aside from there being these bigass flesh-eating slugs on the rampage once again, ‘Breeding Ground’ doesn’t really follow on from, or reference in any way, the previous novel.

This obviously has its pros and cons. Pros being you don’t need to have read the first book, or if you have, not really remember much from it to fully enjoy the sequel. There’s no linking, no recurring characters or references back. Literally, no continuing threads or anything like that. Instead, it’s just a second novel dealing with pretty much the exact same threat.

The cons of doing this are that there’s invariably hints of repetition, and slightly unnecessary explanation building-up towards the slugs being revealed. We’re also not capitalising on any previously established characters, which when done well, can really enrich a sequel (or series).

That said, it’s not like Hutson hangs around at all with delivering his gross-out creature horror. This certainly ain’t some slow burning atmospheric horror. Instead, we have a novel which launches straight into the thick of the over-the-top madness, literally right from the starting blocks.

Furthermore, this horror is a wonderful converging of horror subgenres. We have the obvious creature horror – being the slimy, slithering slugs with their razor-sharp central tooth that’s able to rip into human flesh with ease. We also have a thick helping of body horror, brought in with the nasty symptoms exhibited by the infection that’s spread through the slug trails. Finally, we have a good helping of intense violence-driven-horror, brought to you by the infected victims who’ve become homicidal maniacs, viciously killing those close to them.

The novel is what I would class as a “textbook Hutson novel”. It’s packed with all the stuff we love about the author’s work. Short, snappy chapters, delivering fast-paced splatterpunk, gross-out gore, and scenes of high-octane adrenaline-pumping action.

Throughout the novel, Hutson has also inserted a good number of chapters, each designed to deliver bucket loads of gruesome gross-out horror, in order to keep the intensity in the tale ramping up. One particular aspect which we see recurring within these chapters is the added element of sex. With this we have everything from a threesome between a trio of squatters, to a peepshow stripper doing her thing whilst an onlooking perv gets his rocks off watching, to a husband and wife having a naughty night in. Of course all these chapters end in a decidedly nasty way, with all involved ending up gruesomely killed.

Although, perhaps the most repugnant of chapters is the one which has some house-bound fella attacked by the rampaging slugs whilst he’s sitting on the toilet. Here our slimy friends crawl up the toilet plumbing and get to work on the poor fella’s exposed underside. Yep, balls and all are subjected to the gastropods’ onslaught...including a slug or two entering his anus and chowing down from inside!

Another key aspect of Hutson’s novels is the cast of characters he always incorporates into the tales. Yes, you’ve got a wealth of ‘extras’ introduced then killed off within the aforementioned gross-out chapters. But you also have the handful of principal characters who take us along this horror journey.

Here we have Dr. Alan Finch – a thirty-two-year-old GP and recent divorcee. Finch is our principal protagonist in this gruesome creature feature. Then we have his obvious love interest – Lisa Foster – whose mother is one of the first victims to the slug trail infection. Outside of these two, we have a couple of Detectives working for the MET who’re largely disbelieving of what’s occurring and a pathologist who eventually discovers the connection between the plague-like infection and the flesh-eating slugs.

All in all, the novel is nothing short of a rollercoaster of a ride through some pretty nasty adrenaline-pumping horror. The creature horror aspect is pretty much a paint-by-numbers affair, however, for me at least, the real highlights to the story are with those chapters where Hutson just goes wild with his gross-out splatterpunk.

The novel runs for a total of 220 pages.

© DLS Reviews

Other ‘Slugs’ instalments:


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