Review: The Rats, by James Herbert

A suburban ratpocalipse. (5 stars)

The Rats is a direct and simple horror book, but with great descriptions and surprisingly deep characters. Specially for a story about mutant rats gone mad!

This is a short book with a to-the-point narrative. Stephen King has described this story as Mike Tyson on his prime: “no finesse and raw power”. We are introduced to Harris, an art teacher from the poor London suburbs. His neighborhood is soon taken by tales of deadly attacks by rats the size of dogs and he becomes one of the main agents against the plague.

The book has similarities with zombie stories, in particular because the rats’ bites are deadly, but there is no total Apocalypse. The strong points are the extremely graphic descriptions of the attacks, that may turn into a total massacre involving a lot of people. Like in a crowded train and another one in a movie theater. When the lights are turned on, the floor is completely taken by the rats.

It is very interesting how the author builds multi-lawyered characters with complex stories just to have them brutally torn by a mass of killer rodents in a few paragraphs. We have a man in a midlife crisis that is revealed to be a true hero, a nymphomaniac street dweller that lost to the war the only man who satisfied her, a former salesman that had an affair with a fellow worker and now has surrendered to alcoholism.

A great read.

Guilherme Solari is a Brazilian writer and journalist from Sao Paulo, Brazil. He has written about movies, literature and videogames for some of Brazil’s biggest news sites. He is the author of THE CASCAVEL CHRONICLES, a love letter to 80's action movies, as well as the cyberpunk CYBERSAMPA series.