from the Arrow reprint of 1987 and is suitably grisly. Given the title and
that cover, this should have reeled in the faithful. Lewis wrote quite a
few creepy-crawlies like this back in the day--PARASITE, NIGHT
KILLERS, THE DEVIL'S COACH-HORSE, among others--and all of
them had pretty decent covers from an exploitation standpoint. Once
again, the UK covers for this book were far superior to the American
edition which really just featured a rather silly-looking spider with a
screaming face in the background fanned by spider legs. Enough
said. Back in the 1980's there were a veritable slew of spider books on
the bookstore shelves and why not? What's more creepy, crawly, and
ultimately disgusting than spiders? Even people like me that have no
true phobic dread of them have to admit that there's something very
unpleasant about the spider. And to be eaten by them...well, not good
at all.

And people being eaten by spiders, of course, brings us to the subject
of this novel. So let's dip our feet into the warm red waters of this book
and see what we've got:

"She saw the monster clinging savagely to her hand, its poison fangs
sunk deep in the base of her thumb.
The spiders were ripping frantically at Louise's gaping throat, blood
pouring over them in rhythmic gushes..."

Enough teasers. Onto the plot. England is under siege. It begins in
Kent where a farmer named Mason is eaten and it just keeps rolling
house after house, one unspeakable atrocity after the other--don't
forget the unfortunate lady in the tub!--and it doesn't take our
characters long to figure out why: spiders! Families are wiped out.
Entire farming villages. The menace spreads from Kent into Hampshire
and Surrey as the spiders begin their deadly march to London. Every
living thing in their path is devoured or killed outright with poisoned
fangs. Not just people, but livestock and house pets, even the birds in
the trees. Something must be done. Enter our hero, Alan Mason, a
research biologist and, unfortunately, the son of the farmer who was
feasted upon. He demands action and soon enough, he's placed in
charge of a secret laboratory where they must develop a spider
insecticide. But will they be in time? A primary school is infested. A
trainload of passengers is devoured. A dog kennel becomes a blood
bath. Elevators in high-rises are swarmed with spiders. London is
attacked. Alan, being the stalwart and heroic type, charges into action.
He traces the outbreak of the spiders from Dragon's Farm--his father's
place--to their origin: an abandoned government research facility.
Through his military contacts, Alan learns that this facility was the site
of Cold War biological warfare experiments, many involving human
guinea pigs. A group of dedicated scientists only concerned with the
betterment of mankind developed a gas that would wipe out all life.
People. Lice. Even flies. But not spiders. No, no, no, they mutated and
became larger, more cunning, more vicious. Of course, the scientists
weren't satisfied with British spiders so they brought in deadly Black
Widows from the US, Pakastani hunting spiders, and huge bird-eating
spiders from South America and Asia. Then there was a fire and the
nasty monsters got away. They've been breeding ever since. Racing
against time, Alan must stop them. But will he? God only knows.

Pros:  Cool spider attacks, particularly the mass attack in the barn.
And that great part where all the pets in England--cats and dogs--are
rounded up, infected with anti-spider virus and dropped into crawling
masses of spiders to be eaten. Enough to make any animal lover

Cons: The characters were dull, strictly cardboard stock types. Alan
Mason was stiff and boring, there was not a single flaw in him, no
phobias or bad habits, nothing to make him human. The others were
just as disinteresting. Not enough blood and gore for my tastes. I
expected this to be nastier.

Overall:  Not a bad book of this sort. Could have been bloodier and
livelier, but a decent read for the most part. Certainly not Richard
Lewis's best, but interesting. There was a sequel to this one--THE
WEB--which we'll investigate at another time.

It barely makes three bloody skulls out of five.

For our next Guilty Pleasure we go on vacation:

"A peaceful holiday becomes a nightmare struggle for survival..."
Spiders (UK: Hamlyn, 1978)

"Out of the earth crept mankind's

We're back at it again with this tasty little tidbit
by Richard Lewis which features a yummy
cover of spiders infesting a bloody skull
(staring eyeballsintact). This particular cover is  
Copyright 2016 by Tim Curran
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