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Lair

Novel by James Herbert (England) 1979.

Four years after 'The Outbreak', the horror in London detailed in The Rats, the law requires that anyone noticing unusual rodent activity must immediately report it to the authorities. Lucas 'Luke' Pender works for Ratkill, and is an old friend of Stephen Howard, the expert in The Rats who has now become Ratkill's Director of Research. He is sent in to Epping Forest on routine investigation. What he finds however is far from routine, and he must act quickly to stop 'The Outbreak' happening again so near to London.

As the inventor of the modern animal gore novel formula in The Rats, Herbert knows well its limitations as well as its benefits, and thus, even though Lair follows the same formula as its infamous predecessor, the drastic change of environment - urban to rural - makes for a different approach, and Herbert subtly varies his story to make it different. Though The Rats inspired more horror novels than almost any other book, Lair seems to have inspired films in a similar way: the rat attack from the trees is evocative of the alien attack from the walls in Aliens seven years later, and the evil rat with the scar just has to be the forerunner of Stripe in the Gremlins films. Lair also contains what is possibly the first appearance of a popular genre device: the priest being eaten alive in an open grave. Not as innovative as The Rats and not as much of a horror epic as Domain, nevertheless Lair stands as yet another example of James Herbert's mastery of his chosen genre.


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