160 pages, Black Hill Books
Review by Hereward L.M. Proops
When you finish reading a book as utterly awesome as Michel Faber's “The Crimson Petal and the White” you are instantly faced with a dilemma... What can you read next? In all fairness, most books will look fairly anaemic when compared to Faber's vast Victorian romp. Whatever book you choose as a follow up is likely to be viewed in a less than flattering light.
I found myself in this position the other day. What I needed to achieve was some sense of literary equilibrium. This wasn't going to happen by looking for something as good as Faber's book. No, to achieve a proper sense of balance I was going to have to tackle the literary antithesis of Michel Faber. Whereas Faber was subtle, I would have to find someone with a laughably direct approach to their subject matter. As Faber's characters were witty and believable, this writer's characters would have to be two-dimensional at best. Faber's plot was intelligent and thought provoking so this writer's efforts would have to be an exercise in cliché and stupidity. In short, I was going to have to read another book by Guy N. Smith.
Long-term readers of Booksquawk might recall my review of Smith's brilliantly rubbish pulp horror novel “Night of the Crabs”. Well, in 1978, Smith's monstrous crustaceans had achieved enough of a cult status to warrant a second helping. “KillerCrabs” is, quite possibly the laziest sequel ever written. Smith doesn't make much of an effort to break away from his tried and tested formula of sex, bloodshed and bad-science. Barring a few changes, “Killer Crabs” is essentially the same book as its predecessor. The original novel's Welsh setting is replaced with a sun-soaked island off the Great Barrier Reef. Intrepid academic Professor Clifford Davenport makes a return but his sexual escapades are toned down now that he's a married man. The sexy-time is provided by new character, Klim. A gruff, rugged fisherman endowed with huge penis and the sexual stamina of a porn star, Klim spends as much time slamming the mattress as he does doing anything else in the book.
There's a very slight sub-plot involving a love-triangle between Klim, a monumentally unpleasant big-game hunter by the name of Harvey Logan and a mysterious beauty called Caroline du Brunner. There's also a little diversion involving a suitcase full of stolen money but these are mere side-dishes to the main course. The main plot is, obviously, about the giant, man-eating crabs who invade the island resort leaving a trail of carnage in their wake. Of course, Davenport and Klim have to put aside their differences and find a way to defeat the seemingly indestructible creatures. In this sense, “Killer Crabs” doesn't do anything radically different to its predecessor. When the crabs march onto land, people get snipped into little bit by their razor sharp claws and are then hungrily devoured. There's lashings of blood and gore but very little effort to build a sense of atmosphere or crank up the tension. As with the previous book, Smith's writing isn't terrible. Descriptions are functional enough and the banter between the main characters is certainly not the most hackneyed dialogue I've ever read. A few of Smith's descriptions of the Australian islands are actually quite pleasant and these help the book to flow along quite nicely. Smith makes no effort to dazzle his reader with his research into the subject matter. That's probably because he hasn't done any. Not that this matters, of course. One doesn't expect to find anything resembling logic or plausibility in a pulp-horror novel. When the missiles launched from the Naval destroyer glance off the shells of the crabs, we accept it just as we do when the crabs somehow manage to sink the destroyer a couple of pages later.
Mercifully, it's not a long read and the adventure is ridiculous enough to make it strangely enjoyable for those of us who like cheesy B-movies. Like “Night of the Crabs”, “Killer Crabs” is not a shining example of modern horror fiction. Brainless, lazily executed and based around a central concept so daft nobody else had bothered to put it onto paper, “Killer Crabs” is a laughably bad book. It was, however, just what I needed to cleanse my palate. Although I have said before that I would probably not read another book by Guy N. Smith, there are still three more books in the series. I think that it is pretty likely we'll be paying the giant crabs another visit sometime soon. What can I say? I'm a glutton for punishment.
Hereward L.M. Proops