160 pages, Black Hill Books
Review by Hereward L.M. Proops
I honestly can't tell you why I feel compelled to keep reading Guy N. Smith's horror novels. It is like having a sore tooth – it hurts like hell but you keep prodding it with the tip of your tongue. Perhaps somewhere in my subconscious there is a streak of literary masochism that is only satisfied by low-quality novels about man-eating giant crabs. I found out today that Smith has recently published a seventh novel in the series. God help me, I went straight to the Kindle store and bought it.
“TheOrigin of the Crabs” is the third of Guy N. Smith's novels about monster crustaceans. Rather than following the execrable “Killer Crabs” with a direct sequel, Smith opted to delve into the back-story of his aquatic terrors. Prequels are funny beasts. Unless you count Francis Ford Coppola's “The Godfather Part II”, most attempts to pad out a popular franchise's history are pretty lacklustre affairs. Who in their right mind would choose to watch “Butch and Sundance: The Early Days” over the original movie? And don't even get me started on George Lucas' monumental clusterf*ck of the “Star Wars” prequels... The real problem with prequels is that the audience already have an idea of how the story is going to turn out. We know that Anakin Skywalker is going to become Darth Vader, thus robbing the three films of any dramatic impact. Of course, if George Lucas was a good storyteller, he could have made Anakin's fall a tragedy in the vein of a Classical Greek drama, playing on the audience's knowledge of how the events will play out. Being a cack-handed simpleton, Lucas presented us with a whiny little bitch of a central character, threw in some cod-philosophy and saturated the film with flashy special effects. Whoops, looks like I got started on “Star Wars” after all. But enough of me ranting about how George Lucas ruined a great franchise, I should be ranting about how terrible “The Origin of the Crabs” is.
Curiously, this book is not half as awful as its predecessor. Don't get me wrong, it is a bad book, but it isn't a truly wretched one. Perhaps sensing that the sex and violence formula of the previous two wouldn't see him through another novel, Smith made a few changes. Firstly, he took out most of the sex. Gone are the cheesy, often hilarious acts of physical love that were liberally scattered through the pages of the previous two books. Sure, there's a bit of sex (it wouldn't be a Guy N. Smith book without a bit of how's-your-father) but compared to his other works, “The Origin of the Crabs” is virtually chaste.
The next change is the fact that Smith appears to have upped the level of violence and gore. It is almost as though the author has a delicate ratio of sex : violence. Less sex must equal more violence. Nobody gets away from the crabs in this one. Characters are introduced only to be snipped into little fleshy chunks a few pages later. Hell, one character is introduced in another country, flies to London and then drives all the way to Scotland only to be killed in the next chapter. You have to admire Smith's dedication to his art (if killing off one-dimensional characters in second-rate horror books can be called an art-form).
The rather absurd habit of killing off every single central character does serve a purpose within the book. Being a prequel, we couldn't really have a strong hero emerging and putting an end to the crabs, could we? The aim of the book is simple (the title spells it out in black and white): to reveal the origin of the monstrous crabs. Where do they come from? What do they want? How can they be stopped?
Does Smith provide answers to these questions? Sort of. We learn that the crabs come from a sea-loch in Scotland. How they got there and why they are the size of cows are facts that remain a mystery. As in the other books, they have a seemingly insatiable appetite for human flesh but we learn nothing new about them. Those looking for an enlightening origin tale will find themselves a bit frustrated.
The plot is so simple, it barely seems worth mentioning. Bruce McKechnie is the local laird and owner of the Cranlarich Estate. He's a bastard of the highest order. He had his own brother killed in order to inherit the estate and isn't afraid of bumping off anyone else who gets in the way of him making money. When the giant crabs start devouring guests at the Cranlarich Hotel, McKechnie denies any knowledge of what could have happened to them whilst hatching a plan to rid himself of the meddlesome flesh-eating crustaceans which won't harm his business interests. There's little else to the story. Other characters are introduced, given a few pages to develop (a lucky few are given a couple of chapters) before becoming crab-food. The entire book can be summarised as “Giant crabs eat Scottish people.”
Like its two predecessors, “The Origin of the Crabs” is not a lengthy book and it won't take long to get through it. It's hardly the most inspired work in literary history but it is definitely an improvement on “Killer Crabs”. If you are on the look-out for an extremely violent story about giant crabs rampaging through a Scottish estate, look no further.
Hereward L.M. Proops