It’s summer and it’s hot, and in the town of Merton it’s not just soaring temperatures worrying the locals. Lurking on the edges of the new estate of the town, and spreading out with a rapidity belying their biological form, are a swarm of shell-less gastropod molluscs with a ferocious appetite.
They’ve already stripped down one body by the time their existence (though still a mystery) reaches the attention of local health inspector Mike Brady, and it’s not long before the number of victims begins to grow.
Soon animals get chewed up, as do the content of shops, and more, and then there’s a fair few humans finding themselves on the slug’s menu too. All are at the mercy of the gastronomic demands of the surging onslaught of these slimy critters.
It’s such an ideal monster to employ, given how squeamish many people are towards them. Add a hive-like mentality, a switch from herbivore to carnivore diet and you’re all set for an action paced race against slug.
The outbreak of the rapacious gastropods isn’t clear cut from the perspective of the locals, and it takes a little while before it becomes apparent, even to the specialists, of the nature of the threat that the town faces.
The slugs aren’t just consuming everything, but the mucous they secrete is so very toxic too; one of the most shockingly lurid descriptions to be had in the book is the outcome of one such human infection. The fact that particular scene breaks out in a restaurant, at lunch time, adds even more to its audacity. This is where the reality between schlock and horror genius are blurred.
You’ve got to hand it to Shaun Hutson. With this novel he certainly threw down a gauntlet as regards the handling of pulp-style horror shenanigans in a brute force kind of way. And he should come out smiling too as this is a great book – a Penny Dreadful for its period if you will.
It definitely isn’t for everyone, coming from that 1980s school of horror novel the likes of which inspired the stereotype found in that fictional TV show Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. Yet much as I love Darkplace I too really enjoyed Slugs, and not just in a nostalgic look back at the genre through rose tinted glasses kind of way.
This is an early novel from a true horror great, and sums up the period and era in which it was written so well. It’s about as subtle as lemon juice in your eye, but equally as memorable.