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Thirst

Novel by Guy N Smith (England) 1980.

Mel Timberley, professional lorry driver, swerves to avoid a hare and crashes into Claerwen Reservoir, polluting the entire water supply of Birmingham with the most deadly weedkiller ever created. Ron Blythe was the chemist who helped to create the spray and now, with thousands of people suffering and dying, his conscience forces him to try to work to find an antidote. Unfortunately, he gets stranded inside Birmingham, now sealed off, and full of anarchists, escape criminals and weedkiller-poisoned sufferers from the Thirst, all of which turn the city into a hell inside England.

After destroying Birmingham two years earlier in Bats Out of Hell, Guy Smith returns to do the same thing again, and does a better job this time. The characterisation is absolutely top notch, mixing detailed stereotypes with more against-the-grain cast. The basic story is a common enough one in disaster fiction - though this one is much more of a horror story than most - but the angle towards graphic horror, as in Gary Brandner's The Brain Eaters, replaces a lot of more detailed characterisation and social prophecy that exists in books like Graham Masterton's Plague, for instance. This novel, together with Locusts, really begins some acute social comment, of a more immediate kind to the more subtle type in Masterton's Plague, that continues throughout many of his other novels, from the inefficiency of bureaucracy to the disquieting amount of people who instinctively turn to religion in times of deep crisis. Nevertheless, another good one from one of the author's most enjoyable periods. One sequel: The Plague (1987).


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