Like many, of a certain age, a battered copy of James Herbert's 'The Rats' made it around my old school playground. It was like a secret that everybody knew. Hey, it had giant rats eating babies and loads of shagging. Perfect fodder for any adolescent. Read it again, as an adult and it's bollocks.
I stopped reading Herbert around about the time of 'The Magic Cottage'. Never went back until recently when i bought a copy of 'Others' for 10p in a Charity shop.
So whats it all about?
Very quickly.....a bad man is granted release from Hell in order to make up for his deeds whilst living. In return he will be granted a reprieve from eternal damnation. Problem is he will be a different person with no memories of his previous life and no knowledge that he has been released from Hell. Is that clear? Good?
The book starts badly. The Hell passages are very tongue in cheek and therefore it's difficult to give them any credibility. The middle section of the book is excellent.
The Hell returnee is badly physically disabled and Herbert's describes his life very well indeed. His frustration and depression with his disability is gripping stuff leaving the reader feeling a great affinity with the man. I've no idea whether or not Herbert has personal knowledge of living with a disability but he certainly writes as if he does. One particular passage where the main character is beaten and abused by a group of teenage girls is particularly powerful.
It all goes wrong though. He is a private detective whose investigation into a missing child leads him to an old peoples home where sinister goings on are afoot. Our hero investigates, falls in love (with another disabled person...hey, they are both disabled so MUST fall for each other obviously) and gets involved in a conspiracy of massive proportions.
The ending is very poor featuring a lot of nonsense about a corrupt Doctor who is earning a fortune making Porn Movies with Disabled persons and genetic abnormalities.
One nice point and an unusual one for Herbert is the almost complete lack of graphic bedroom scenes. It's very refreshing, all though he does write graphic bedroom scenes very well (if that's the sort of thing you want to read?).
All in all its pretty average. Poor opening, excellent middle section, poor ending.
I won't be rushing out to buy his latest but might pick it up a few years from now if it's 10p in a Charity Shop.