153 pages, Dell
Review by Hereward L.M. Proops
Guy N. Smith was clearly faced with a problem when he finished, “Crabs on the Rampage”, the fourth book in the Crabs series. Where can you go after a full scale invasion of Britain by giant man-eating crabs? When you've had the monstrous crustaceans unleashing their own particular brand of crabby carnage on the streets of London, what can any self-respecting pulp horror author do as a follow-up? “Crabs' Moon”, the fifth book in the series, sees Smith going back to the beginning of his saga. The events of the original “Night of the Crabs” are replayed but this time from a different perspective. Lazy? Most definitely, but given that most of the sequels to Smith's original novel have been pretty cack-handed affairs, I was quite pleased to discover that “Crabs' Moon” is actually one of the better books in the series.
In “Crabs' Moon”, the giant crabs' initial invasion of the Welsh holiday resorts of Shell Island and Barmouth is given a second run-through, only this time we see the events unfold from the point of view of the guests and management at the nearby Blue Ocean Holiday Camp. The gaudy, Butlins-style holiday camp is the brain-child of millionaire American and all-round bastard, Miles Manning. Manning's desire to create the best (read: most profitable) holiday camp in Wales (?!?) is his over-riding ambition and when the giant crabs start attacking nearby resorts on the Blue Ocean's opening weekend, Manning is understandably pissed off. However, he isn't going to let fact that his guests are in mortal danger get in the way of making a profit. In a way, Manning is like the mayor in “Jaws”, only rather than living in denial about the existence of the giant shark / giant crabs, he just doesn't give a shit.
If Manning is there to provide the book with a human villain, then the sympathetic characters come in the form of Irey Wall and Gordon Smallwood. Irey is a bored, sexually-frustrated housewife holidaying at the Blue Ocean with her two young children whilst her husband goes on a fishing trip. Gordon is a handsome divorcee whose job as a Greencoat at the holiday park brings him dangerously close to the giant crabs. Naturally, the invasion of the crabs brings Irey and Gordon together but, curiously, Smith never allows the relationship to be consummated. Ordinarily, characters in Smith's novels are tearing one another's clothes off within pages (or sometimes paragraphs) of meeting one another. I found myself wondering why Smith would deny his protagonists a bit of slap and tickle and then it struck me. They never get it on because Irey is married. Beneath all the blood and gore, graphic sex and extreme violence, Smith's novels are actually quite conservative. Characters in Smith's books who indulge in extra-marital affairs are punished. The punishment normally comes in the form of a giant crab who feasts on the unfaithful one's innards. In the opening chapter of the novel, Irey comes very close to getting devoured by the crabs because she is considering cheating on her absent husband. Fortunately for her, the crabs have a nibble on the man she's with instead, leaving her free from sin. Later on in the book we meet Gordon's current girlfriend, Jean Ruddington. Jean is, to put it mildly, a complete slapper and happens to be cheating on Gordon with a man who lives in Barmouth. When Jean realises that Gordon is the man for her and tries to get back to him at the holiday camp, she meets a particularly sticky end involving a cliff wall and an out of control articulated lorry.
Smith's handling of the blossoming relationship between Irey and Gordon is actually quite good and is the novel's salvation. Because he won't allow them to fall into one another's arms straight away, there's a pleasing bit of sexual tension simmering between them. Smith resists the usual tendency to kill off his characters straight away and so Irey and Gordon are given the space to develop a little thus enabling the reader to actually begin to care a little for them. This sympathy for the protagonists is something that has been missing from the previous sequels in the series and the book really benefits from it.
Of course, this doesn't mean that Smith has left all his bad habits behind. There are still huge numbers of crab-fodder characters in the book. Introduced at the start of a chapter and snipped into little pieces by the end. There's the ugly fat girl whose one-night-stand in a field with an equally unpleasant partner ends with disembowelment. Most memorable (for all the wrong reasons) is the snobbish couple from Birmingham who are perpetually embarrassed by the masturbatory habits of their mentally handicapped teenage son. All are snipped into tiny fleshy chunks before being devoured by the killer crabs and their fate couldn't be more obvious even if their name was Tasty McVictim.
Smith's writing doesn't seem to have improved either. “I get the feeling that this whole business is some kind of spoof,” expresses Gordon Smallwood at one point in the novel, and when you read some of the mangled prose on display here, it is hard to disagree with him. Whole passages have been cut from “Night of the Crabs” and pasted into this book. At one point, Professor Cliff Davenport, the hero of several of the other novels, makes an appearance but seems to have forgotten that it was his nephew (not his niece) who went missing at Shell Island. There are such vast gaps in logic in the plotting that they threaten to swallow up the whole novel like a Florida sinkhole. If the crabs don't move far inland, why would the army and police insist that the holidaymakers remain at the beach-front Blue Ocean Holiday Park rather than evacuate them to a safe distance?
“Crabs' Moon” isn't a great book by any stretch of the imagination but it is certainly an improvement on the last few novels in the series. Smith's decision to replay the events from the first novel is an interesting one but, when all is said and done, it is ultimately fairly pointless. Better characterisation and a spot of will-they-won't-they romance helps to raise “Crabs' Moon” above its predecessors but even die-hard fans of the series will find this novel lacking in bite.
Hereward L.M. Proops