James Herbert hit the ground running with his 1974 novel "THE RATS". The book was disliked by the critical and literary establishmnnent for being too violent.
Looking back however, it seems just as likely that the literary establishment didn't like what Herbert was doing to the horror genre. He was ramping it up to the max. Making horror horrific.
First of all, "THE RATS" was deemed to be too graphic in its portrayals of death and mutilation, and the social commentary regarding the neglect of London's suburbs was said to be too extreme. For some reviewers, the novel was simply deemed to be poor writing, but the opposite was in fact the case.
At the same time, there was also in THE RATS a certain social commentary likely influenced by Herbert's harsh upbringing in immediate post-war London.
Horror writer Ramsey Campbell lauded the novel, saying:
"The Rats announces at once that James Herbert won't be confined by the conventions of English macabre fiction."
Campbell even praised the use of the theme of "Original Sin" in "THE RATS", saying:
"that the book can discuss its underlying themes so directly without becoming pretentious, is one of Herbert's strengths."
One underlying theme in the novel is the lack of care by the government toward the underclass and a lack of reaction to a catastrophe until it is too late.
Fellow author Peter James stated:
"I think Jim reinvented the horror genre and brought it into the modern world. He set a benchmark with his writing that many writers subsequently have tried, without success, to emulate."
James Herbert's own personal staple was a knack he had for introducing characters in a short space of time, showing readers their pre-occupations, faults, concerns, passions, problems and background, only to quickly and brutally kill them off. He has already perfected this by the time of "THE RATS", and ten years later, in "DOMAIN" he made a virtue of this, showing off an incredible ability to now achieve this effect six or seven times in quick sucession.
It was a glorious ten years to be a horror reader in Great Britain. A string of incredible novels appeared between 1974 and 1984, culminating in Herbert's "SHRINE" in 1983, and "DOMAIN" in 1984, two of his longer books, with "SHRINE" aimed quite clearly at the USA and the market dominated by Stephen King, and "DOMAIN" returning to appeal to the UK faithful, as Herbert pulled out all the stops to perfect his art in one almighty nuclear blast of gruesoimeness and fear.
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