Thursday, December 18, 2014

Domain (1979) by James Herbert

Lair by James Herbert (1979): Late, prolific English horror novelist James Herbert really had a gift for blending left-leaning social commentary into his blood-spattered works. Lair, the second novel in his Rats trilogy, isn't quite as agit-proppy as The Rats or Domain. Nonetheless, it takes a lot of shots at upper-class twits, self-serving politicians, and money-grubbing corporate types.

The two co-dependent sub-species of giant rats that brought London to its knees in The Rats seem to have been vanquished when this novel opens. Four years have passed. But in the idyllic private forest of Epping Wood, a protected green space just a few miles from the centre of London, England, something is stirring. The two-foot-long black rats and their two-headed, nearly immobile overlords have adapted to life in the forest. And boy, are they hungry!

This time around, a plucky male biologist who works for the world's biggest rat-catching corporation (the Rat Invasion of London created some great business opportunities) and a plucky female forest guide are our main protagonists. This is an early James Herbert novel, so be assured that they will engage in a graphic five-page-long sex scene before the story's over. 

The super-rats soon create lots of mayhem and a lot of headless bodies stripped of all flesh. As a second book in a trilogy, Lair is a bit more restrained than the first and third novels. The action stays confined to the forest. Really, it's a pastoral from Hell. 

The gruesome scenes are very gruesome and quite inventive. The bureaucrats and politicians are dangerous idiots. The adaptation of the super-rats seems logical and well-thought-out, as do the social frictions between the two sub-species of super-rats. There's trouble in Rat Paradise! But they're still super-hungry! And, in what I think is a first for Herbert, the supporting pervert character doesn't die. Or does he? In any case, Herbert really didn't like Phys. Ed. teachers. Recommended.

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