Horror Book Review: The Rats (James Herbert)


James Herbert was an English horror writer responsible for many gory & violent novels set within the United Kingdom. Hardly the world’s greatest author, Herbert’s work was often garish & childish but has an addictive quality that just keeps you reading on, often in open-mouthed horror at the events playing out before your eyes.

James Herbert died in 2013, I consider myself a fan of some of his work but much prefer his earlier stuff. It has a rawness to it that just makes them feel so much more real.

Well it doesn’t get much earlier than this, The Rats is Herbert’s first novel published in 1974. It tells a shocking & fun story about huge black rats that begin attacking the residents of London. These rats are braver & way more deadly than the usual brown rat that plagues the city & we get graphic & brutal scenarios of death.

A mystery surrounds the creatures & it makes for an exciting read as we get closer to the truth.

The rat attacks are the best parts of the book as Herbert’s imagination gets to run wild (as a tube worker, the section that takes place on a train & in the tunnel was particularly fun to read) but the lack of memorable characters harms what could be a great read. We have a lead character (Harris) but he is any/every man ever. He’s just soooo boring & I wouldn’t have minded if he’d ended up fodder for the rats too!

You do get used to Herbert’s lead heroes in his books as they are all interchangeable & as memorable as wet paper bag.

The Rats had two sequels that continued & elaborated on the menace (Lair and Domain).

Reading the book in modern time, its violent nature won’t seem that out of the ordinary by today’s standard. You’ve got to picture how this story would have been received in 1974.

The Rats (James Herbert)
  • 6/10
    The Final Score - 6/10
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