Review: The Rats by James Herbert (The Rats # 1)


The Rats ( The Rats # 1) by James Herbert.  Published in 1974, originally from New English Library Ltd.,  my copy is from Signet.

Aah…. The Rats.  An infamous and iconic horror novel, especially in the creature  feature category.   James Herbert, a British horror author like no other.  This was his first novel.

Set in London, it’s just another, gritty, hard fought day of trying to pay bills and put food on the table.   Well their day is about to get even harder.   The rats, slowly attacking at first, one homeless guy here.  Another homeless guy there.  Who’s gonna miss them?  With each kill, the rats become bolder, and after breaking in to a nice suburban house, the public starts to take notice.   Something is wrong with the rats in London.  They are bigger, the size of a small dog, and ferocious.  Their bite causes a bizarre sickness. Did I mention they are hungry? Because they are.  For you.  And when thousands and thousands of these horrible rats begin to flood the streets, nobody is safe.

The Rats is an extremely quick read, clocking in just shy of 200 pages.  Mr. Herbert packs a lethal punch in such a short amount of pages. The plot is pretty entertaining, in a great B-movie sort of way.  No super deep or complex characters, but who cares? We are clearly here for rat action! And rat action is what we get. This book is not for the squeamish, and if you are an animal lover, be advised there are some scenes with pets you will want to avoid.  This book does not hold back on the death and destruction.  The kill counts (human and animal) are high and nobody is safe from getting chewed on and ripped apart, not even babies.  The book ends with putting two and two together in order to figure out where these crazed killer rats came from, with the very last few pages giving us an excellent surprise that sets up book 2.  Can’t wait to see where that leads us!

I was surprised by the amount of social commentary in the story.   Quite a bit of comments about how the homeless and the poor are treated, and about the government not really caring about a problem until it starts to effect the richer neighborhoods.  I wasn’t expecting that at all.

My biggest complaint is the animal deaths.  Yes.  I am one of THOSE people… The type who has no problem watching a giant rat chew the fingers off a baby but when it turns on her little puppy I flail around screaming “NUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!!!! NOT THE DOGGIE!!!!!!” followed by sadface and complaining to everyone I know.   So, seriously, if you are like me and don’t like it when they hurt the animals,  use caution when reading the book.


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