Sunday, December 9, 2012

Book Review: 'Bloodworm' by John Halkin

3 / 5 Stars

‘Bloodworm’ (251 pp) was published by Guild Press in 1988. The covert artwork is uncredited.

Author John Halkin published several other ‘creature’ novels in the 80s, including ‘Slither’ (1980), ‘Slime’ (1984) and ‘Squelch’ (1985).

With the type of novel that ‘Bloodworm’ represents, Halkin knew he was not being asked to deliver a moody tome, preoccupied with psychological horror and existential malaise. Rather, his readers wanted gruesome monster action, without any ancillary crap. And that’s what 'Bloodworm' delivers.

Set in a rundown London neighborhood, in the cheerless days of early Spring, within the first few pages of the novel a wino (er, excuse me, Homeless Person) becomes fodder for vicious, flesh-eating beetles.

In short order the beetles get to work on other victims, and the body count rises.

Guy Archer, a former British Army officer, is one of the lucky few to survive an encounter with the beetles. As the infestation grows, Archer, and the public health workers and police officers who call on his expertise, make a disturbing discovery: in some instances, wormlike creatures the size of cobras are appearing alongside the beetles.

These worms fasten their sucker-like mouths on hapless victims and drain their blood. As they feed, the loathesome worms turn pink….then red….hence the term ‘bloodworms’.

Before the authorities can quite grasp the nature of the menace, the beetles and their bloodworm allies begin an inexorable spread throughout the city…..and London comes to know the meaning of true horror…

'Bloodworm' is a well-written book; Halkin adopts the spare, uncontrived prose style of James Herbert.
The dialogue is believable, and authentic to the novel's London locale. Extended internal monologues, angst-filled musings on the Horror Of It All, and multi-page flashbacks don’t make an appearance. Instead, we get a fast-moving narrative devoid of filler.

The rationale underpinning the appearance of the ravenous insect life is more than a little contrived, but Halkin understands that, like the Sci-Fi channel’s ‘monster movie of the week’, entertainment is key with something like 'Bloodworm'.

In my opinion, this makes 'Bloodworm' markedly superior to such dire 80s horror clunkers as Ramsey Campbell’s ‘The Parasite’, or Peter Straub’s ‘Koko’.

If you’re a fan of the schlock ‘creature’ novels released in the 1980s by Shawn Hutson (‘Slugs’), Guy Smith (‘Killer Crabs’), and of course Herbert’s novels, than 'Bloodworm' is just right for you.


Bob Milne said...

I swear I had a copy of this at some time, but don't remember reading it. May have to scrounge one up, based on your review.

Will Errickson said...

Sounds cool. The one Smith CRABS book I read was underwhelming b/c he really is a bad writer - not fun bad, just dreary bad - while Hutson's SLUGS was okay. Neither however is as powerful or effective as the original, Herbert's THE RATS.