First published back in June of 2019, British pulp horror veteran Guy N Smith’s ‘The Carnal Caves’ formed the eighth instalment in the author’s signature giant crabs series (not including the graphic novel, short stories omnibus and chapbooks).

DLS Synopsis:
It was Billy Brown and Ann Morrison’s first holiday together.  They’d been enjoying their time camping on Shell Island, up until the pair stumbled upon the bloodied corpse of a young female, sprawled over a rock along the sea front.  Even from a distance they could see the deep wounds across her breasts and stomach.

After consulting with Professor Danielson of the Marine Conservation Society, the local police are quick to blame Lion’s Mane Jellyfish for the poor girl’s death.  After all, sightings of the large jellyfish with their long trailing tentacles had been on the increase of late.

Meanwhile, Professor Cliff Davenport has been contemplating returning back to Barmouth.  Memories of the crustacean attacks from some forty years ago had been plaguing the ex-marine biologist’s sleep.  Numerous visits to a psychiatrist had done nothing for him.  What he’d witnessed all those years ago along the seafront at Barmouth and around Shell Island had left Davenport with severe mental trauma.

Wanting to satisfy his troubled mind that the monster crabs no longer exist, Davenport decides a return to Barmouth with Pat for a holiday is the right decision, hoping they’ll finally see the place as a typical Welsh holiday resort rather than the sight of a horrific bloodbath.

But shortly after they arrive, Davenport discovers the tell-tale signs of giant crabs frequenting a flooded cave located at the base of the cliffs along seafront.  The retired marine biologist instantly sees the caves for what they are – an ideal hideout for the giant killer crabs.

Soon enough the bodies are piling up, including the crew of a Russian submarine which had ventured into UK waters on an experimental mission to test the submarine’s stealth.  Davenport knows his first challenge will be to convince the authorities that the giant crabs are back.  Then somehow they’ll need to rid the world of the remaining beasts once and for all.  Although doing so will undoubtedly mean entering the labyrinth of caverns where the crabs were evidently now hiding.

Furthermore, with a hurricane heading their way, time is running out, before the flesh-hungry crabs are ready to commence their next full-scale assault on mankind…

DLS Review:
Guy N Smith releasing a new crabs novel is enough to get any good pulp horror fan drooling at the crustacean carnage to come.  The crabs series are undoubtedly Smith’s flagship books – delivering absolutely everything that so many of us love about pulp horror, in some of the most over-the-top ‘creatures vs mankind’ books to have seen publication.

It’s been a good seven years since Smith delivered a full-length crabs story.  Furthermore, the previous offering – ‘Killer Crabs: The Return’ (2012) – was more of a novella than a full novel (even by pulp horror standards).  You’ll be pleased to hear ‘The Charnel Caves’ offers up a solidly pulpy page-count of 134 pages, which unlike the previous instalment, aren’t stretched out with double line-spacing and overly large text.

You’ll also be pleased to hear that ‘The Charnel Caves’ delivers textbook old school pulp horror, that’s not far removed from all the Crabs instalments during the 80’s.  Oh yes, there’s an abundance of crab attacks, resulting in limbs being lopped off, slurped and munched down by our hard-shelled friends.

Professor Cliff Davenport is also back!  Of course, he’s a good forty years older than he was at the time of the Battle of Barmouth.  He’s no longer the relatively fearless, ultra-charismatic, hands-on protagonist that he was in the earlier books.  Instead, Smith has aged the professor well, giving him a purely advisory role in tackling the return of the crustacean threat.

Although outside of Davenport there’s really no other stand-out protagonist in this particular book.  Although a handful of other characters do somewhat bravely step up to the challenge of attempting to deal with the crabs.  Nevertheless there’s really no single-handed hero pushing the efforts of counteracting the crabs, other than the hard-faced determination displayed by Davenport to finally rid the world of the killer crustacean threat.

As you’ll have seen in the above synopsis, the main plot of the tale centres on the giant killer crabs returning and taking up residence within a labyrinth of caves at the base of Barmouth’s cliff face.  However, Smith doesn’t leave the foundations of the tale at that.  Instead we have a Russian submarine entering the nearby waters, which of course comes under attack from the crabs.  We also have a hurricane dubbed ‘The Terror from the West’ injecting an added degree of urgency to the whole thing.

For me, and I guess for most readers of Guy’s work, the real joy in the novels comes from the unpredictability of where Smith’s going to take the tale next.  Where the next bout of carnage is going to spring up from.  Take this story for example.  You’re probably thinking we’re just in for another onslaught or crustacean chaos.  But no.  We’ve got Mother Nature unleashing a hurricane on the Welsh coastline, a Russian sub becoming severely compromised (with the resulting political fallout), and then there’s the completely over-the-top Lion’s Main Jellyfish.  I kid you not, these badboys are like something from a fifties B-Movie, with their flaying tentacles rising up out of the sea and threatening to capsize a 20ft long fishing boat.

You’ve got to love Smith’s brazen devotion to deliver the pure pulpy pleasures for his adoring readers.  You get so much from his books.  Absolutely no fillers.  No unnecessary padding out of the pages.  We’re just flung straight into the action, with no holding back on the bloodshed, and no waiting around for the next bout of mayhem to unfold.

This is Guy N Smith doing what he does best.  If you enjoyed any of his other pulp horror novels, particularly those from the crabs series, then this is one you’ll need to add to that collection.  It’s pure unadulterated Creatures vs Mankind pulp horror from an undisputed veteran of the genre.  Absolute classic Guy N Smith.

The novel runs for a total of 134 pages. 

© DLS Reviews

Other ‘Crabs’ instalments:



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