Shaun Hutson’s debut 1982 novel Slugs chillingly touched upon the dangers of mutation at even the lowest part of the food chain, in a true horror style. Erebus builds upon these foundations by toying further with the kind of haywire, havoc and bloody pandemonium that can occur when the subject of animalistic rampaging fury is a few more steps up the ladder of aforementioned chain.
The death of his father brings Vic Tyler back to the small town of Wakely to take over the family farm and business. As if such a new start wasn’t already mired in sad events, it’s compounded by surreal and violent behaviour among the livestock in the local community. That begins to crop up across the board, and soon in Vic’s own farm.
Could there be something amiss with the animal feed, supplied by the local Vanderburg Chemicals Group? And what of the supposed missing worker at their factory, which is ring fenced literally and figuratively in a protective cloak from all inspection?
Maybe it’s something to do with a town called Arkham just down the road? Nothing good ever came out of a place called Arkham in a horror novel, right? For a genre as a whole, yes. But for the characters of a novel? No, that never bodes well; unless you want tentacles spilling forth from drain covers and such.
It’s clear straight off the bat that there’s something seriously wrong with a few of the town’s animals as they embark on cannibalistic killing sprees. It soon seems that it’s not just the animals that are affected. Enter American reporter Jo, on the run from a past she’d rather forget in the U.S. (and a good advertisement on the dangers of being too ambitious) and working for the small-town paper. She’s looking into a disappearance of a person purported to work for Vanderburg Chemicals, and hitting stonewalls from that corporate entity as she ramps up her investigation.
As her path crosses with Tyler’s, the pair uncover evil spreading across the town, and it’s not just the livestock affected. Soon the body-toll rises, as do evil plots and villainous machinations infused with dystopian-apocalyptic intent.
Hutson’s work is always punchy and shocking; he’s a poster boy in some ways for 80s and 90s horror novels with garish covers and equally jumpy plotlines. I like to think of him as a British Richard Laymon, if you will, and he’s got a great current and back catalogue worth checking out by any fans of the genre.
Like many of his works, Erebus is a fast paced shocker that delivers scares, thrills and blood by the bucket load, and as such definitely leans toward the more violent-side of the spectrum (be advised you readers of more slow-paced, cerebral supernatural fiction).
Shaun Hutson’s books are generally at the high end of the intensity scale, but that’s no bad thing for sure. Your attention will be maintained well throughout, with maximum mileage being made out of this horror vehicle’s freakier moments. But then sometimes, that’s what it’s all about.