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The Fog

Novel by James Herbert (England) 1975.

Early one morning in Wiltshire, a huge earth tremor splits a village near Salisbury Plain right down the middle. Out from the depths of the abyss comes an acrid yellow-tinged mist that doesn't disperse but moves with the wind as a solid mass: a mist that does strange things to the minds of man and beast. The first survivor, John Holman (who works in covert operations for the Department of Environment!) has to persuade the authorities that it's the fog that's causing the weird incidents all over the South Coast.

Less believable than The Rats, but nevertheless a second effective gore novel from England's number one horror author. This is another 'mass death disaster caused by the military because they were fiddling about with germ warfare' novel along the lines of The Brain Eaters or A Touch of Hell, as well as many more intelligent thrillers, but this rises above its rivals by way of being one of the most memorable horror novels ever. Various minor scenes have stuck with me ever since I first read this as a child: the shears incident, the Bournemouth lemmings and the severed head bit are all crafted well enough, but somehow they stick in the mind far longer than they ought.

Anyone who read The Rats can hardly be surprised by this book: the style is very similar and even John Holman, the hero, has a lot in common with Harris, the hero in The Rats: they are both capable men who get caught up in a situation beyond their control, only to be dragged along as the hero of the hour, up to and including the frenzied climax. But anyone who read The Rats surely couldn't care less about any minor similarities, because The Fog justifies the praise heaped on to its author on the basis of his debut novel. For a modern treatment of a similar story, try Richard Laymon's One Rainy Night.

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