176 pages, Black Hill Books
Review by Hereward L.M. Proops
I've only got myself to blame. I started this nightmare so I might as well see it through to the bitter end. Why I took it upon myself to review every single one of Guy N. Smith's novels about giant man-eating crabs is a mystery to me. Here I am, six books in, and I still don't feel any better about trawling (excuse the pun) through this drivel. There's nobody forcing me to do it... In fact, I'm sure there are some in the Booksquawk team who'd be glad to see me stop reviewing such trashy books and focus instead on something a little more high-brow. Even Pat Black seems to have caught the crap-horror bug and has started reviewing some of Guy N. Smith's other insalubrious offerings. The ultimate irony is that Guy N. Smith is now fast becoming Booksquawk's most reviewed author and I'm getting emails from complete strangers requesting more reviews of Crabs books. Well, Paul... this one's for you.
“Crabs: The Human Sacrifice” should have been my last Guy N. Smith Crabs book to review. This one has been in my mind as the last one in the series for so long that I always saw it as the finish line, so to speak. If I could get that far, I'd have achieved something. I'd have gone through crap-horror hell and come out the other side smelling of roses. This was to be the last one, the big farewell to the flesh-hungry crustacean beasties that have plagued me for the last two years. Then I got that email from Amazon telling me that Guy N. Smith had released yet another book. “Killer Crabs: The Return” was released last year and deftly shat all over my hopes that this self-imposed torture would end soon.
Of course, I'm getting ahead of myself. I haven't even started reading “Killer Crabs: The Return” yet. This review is about 1988's “Crabs: The Human Sacrifice”, a book so mind-bogglingly awful that it can't really be called a “guilty pleasure”. No, “Crabs: The Human Sacrifice” goes way, way beyond that. As with “Crabs' Moon”, Guy N. Smith opts to set this novel at the same time as another book in the series. This time, the companion novel is “Crabs on the Rampage” (you know, the one where the giant crabs have cancer and invade London). Rather than focusing on the wholesale carnage of a full-scale crab invasion, Smith uses the novel as a means of attacking militant animal rights activists. Yes, you read that right. A quick Google search reveals that, as well as being a prolific author of crap-horror, Guy N. Smith is also a keen outdoor sportsman and has written extensively on country sports. In other words, he likes shooting little animals with big guns. Now, don't get me wrong – I don't have an axe to grind here about people who engage in such sports. I can't say I'm a big fan of fox-hunting or those who blast away at pheasants with shotguns but there are other things in this world that upset me far more. By using a gang of militant animal rights activists as his human villains, Smith makes it pretty clear on which side of the fence he stands. The animal rights activists, led by the totally loony Pete Merrick, have a grudge against anyone who engages in bloodsports and dispatch them in various grisly ways. When the crabs start to attack, Merrick decides that they are some kind of gods who deserve to be worshipped and begins sacrificing his victims to his new deities. If this isn't bad enough, Merrick is also a sadistic pervert who derives no small pleasure out of his duties as high priest of the crabs. He spends quite a lot of time in the novel strutting around in the nude with an erection and torturing his long-suffering girlfriend, Christine.
Amidst all the reactionary politics and sadomasochistic sex there's the usual depictions of the crabs' victims being snipped into bloody chunks and hungrily devoured. It's nothing we haven't seen before and one gets the impression that even Smith was aware at this point that he was retreading old ground. Not even the appearance of dependable old Professor Clifford Davenport is able to breathe life into the proceedings as all of his scenes have been lifted virtually word for word from “Crabs on the Rampage”. To overcome the tedium, Smith appears to have upped the ante in terms of gore and nastiness. There is a truly grotesque scene where the deranged Merrick tries to encourage Christine to eat pus-filled, cancerous, rotten crab flesh that will be hard to forget, regardless of how many times I hit myself over the head with my Kindle. There are also some truly stomach-churning descriptions of bodily dismemberment and evisceration that will no doubt amuse the die-hard gore-hounds out there. The rest of us will find little to sustain our interest. Smith makes little effort to create an atmosphere of suspense, and over-familiarity with the crabs appears to have robbed them of what little sense of dread and menace they might have possessed five books back.
“Crabs: The Human Sacrifice” isn't as badly written as some of the other books in the series but it still manages to leave a very unpleasant taste in the mouth. There are some fairly evocative descriptions of the English countryside and the novel cracks along at a decent pace. The real problem with the book is that the sadomasochistic element manages to undermine virtually everything else in the story. Guy N. Smith doesn't seem to be condoning such practices but the focus seems to have shifted away from the horror of the giant crabs and onto the horrible things people can do to one another. There is a clumsy environmental message shoehorned into a single paragraph towards the end of the novel but, ultimately, the book is simply a bargain-basement shocker about sexual cruelty. Even fans of E.L. James will struggle to find anything titillating or erotic here. Fifty Shades of Shit.
Hereward L.M. Proops