156 pages, Black Hills Books
Review by Hereward L.M. Proops
This is it folks! After over two years of grubbing my way through Guy N. Smith's series of shlock-horror novels about man-eating crabs, I've finally reached the last one. This is the one that took me by surprise, not because it is any good (it isn't) but because it was not published as part of the original series from New English Library. It was way back in 1988 in the truly abysmal “Crabs: The Human Sacrifice” when Smith's monstrous crustaceans last got a good feeding. However, in August 2012, the good people at Black Hill Books thought that it was time for us to shudder once more as the all-too-familiar click-clickety-click of razor-sharp pincers draws closer.
The world has changed a lot in the twenty-four years since the last book in the series but it is perversely pleasing to see that time has neither changed nor improved the content of the stories or the style of the writing. Smith is still in the habit of introducing characters only to kill them off a few pages later. His portrayal of women seems stuck in the 1970s – they are only included in the story to be a) sex objects, b) victims or c) sexy victims. There are a few signs that Smith is aware of the modern age and he has tried to shoehorn them into the painfully old-school narrative. Characters have mobile phones and this, naturally, enables the author to play with the overused (and wildly inaccurate) conceit that one cannot call emergency services in rural areas due to a lack of reception.
Predictably, crab-expert and all-round good bloke Professor Clifford Davenport makes an appearance. He too seems to be struggling with life in the twenty-first century as he curses the NHS for not differentiating between cigarettes and pipes in the ban on smoking in public places. He's still obsessed with the giant crabs (though, bizarrely, the fact that he lost a hand to one in the last book is not once mentioned) and he is still struggling to get the authorities to listen to his warnings about the deadly creatures, even though the crabs managed to invade London in one of the previous novels. This is, perhaps, the silliest part of the novel – despite the utter carnage that previous crab invasions unleashed upon the country, characters within the story remain curiously detached from the past. On several occasions Smith points out that many of the characters were not even born when the events of “Night of the Crabs” took place but this doesn't change the fact that a large-scale invasion of the capital city by giant flesh-eating crustaceans would have some kind of impact on the collective national psyche.
Davenport is not the main protagonist in the novel. In this book, Brian “Brock” Logan takes centre-stage. He's the bastard son of Harvey Logan, the monumentally unpleasant big game hunter who met his grisly fate in “Killer Crabs”, the first sequel in the series. Brock is a slightly more sympathetic character than his shit of a father and his desire to shoot and kill a crab is rationalised as an act of vengeance for the death of the dad he scarcely knew. Being a red-blooded man, Brock has a taste for the ladies and his female companion comes in the shapely form of sexy bed and breakfast owner Karen Anderson. Smith clearly tries to make the readers feel the sparks flying between the two potential lovers but manages to write their blossoming relationship with all the tact and skill of a fourteen year old boy.
“He stood listening to her footsteps going downstairs. That was when he realised he had an erection.”
The best thing I can say about “Killer Crabs: The Return” is that it is over very quickly. I managed to get through the book in a single sitting (I know, I'm a glutton for punishment) and it is probably fairer to call it a novella rather than a full-length novel. Indeed, the resolution to the story, involving the army of crabs and an unexploded World War Two bomb, came about so quickly and conveniently that I found myself wondering whether Smith himself was fed up with the whole silly business and just wanted to get it over with as fast as possible.
“Killer Crabs: The Return” is not the worst book in the series but it does feel like a bit of an afterthought and is instantly forgettable. After ploughing through the other six Crabs books, I guess I had hoped that Smith would end the seventh in the series with a bit more of a bang. Those who are genuinely interested in reading a book about giant crabs should stick to the original “Night of the Crabs” and not bother with a single one of the unnecessary sequels. I wish I hadn't...
… Psh, who am I trying to kid? If Guy N. Smith brought another Crabs book out, I'd be the first in line to buy a copy.
Hereward L.M. Proops