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The Rats - James Herbert

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Genre: Junior Books / Author: James Herbert / Edition: New Ed / Paperback / 197 Pages / Book is published 1999-04-23 by Pan Books

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      06.01.2013 15:34
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      Have read twice years apart, but won't be reading again

      Although I have always loved horror books and films, James Herbert was never a favourite, but my brother liked him so from time to time I would read a one or two of his books. One of the first I chose - and must admit have re read recently - was "The Rats". I did not hold out much hope for it, because I am not afraid of rats - I don't actually want one in the house but if I saw one in the street I would not be too concerned. The book is quite detailed and did make me cringe a bit in parts as this is clearly a lot more intense than the odd rat on a country road. The story started out quite well, detailing the first few attacks and explaining who all the main characters were, but after that I found it to be harder to believe. It is in fact very far-fetched and while that does deter from the story for me it is also well written and well thought out. You do have to take into account that this is meant as a horror book and unlike many I have read, I was not left considering what would I do if this actually happened. More recently I have heard that it was also partly written as a social commentary on the way the public are treated by the authorities but if so, I see it as even more far-fetched. For me the thing that did not really get me too involved was the fact that it was so gruesome - I prefer a good emotional/psychological story to a slasher one - and this is very much blood and guts. I actually found the ending more than a bit silly and as a result it put me off reading any more of James Herbert's books for quite a while. If you do like the slasher type books then this is certainly one for you, but having read it again I must admit to having skipped through some of the worst parts. Amazon are currently selling this in paperback for £6.99 and £6.82 for Kindle. *Slight Spoiler Alert * There are a couple of follow up books - "Lair" and "Domain" but I have not felt inclined to read them

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        03.11.2009 11:37
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        Great horror novel

        This is a great horror novel by James Herbert published in 1974 it was the first great story that was published from Herbert. This was the first of what would become a trilogy (The lair and Domain) The story is set in London and basicaly is about a new breed of rat one that is not scared of humans and instead of hiding in the shadows actualy begin to attack humans and thus infect them with a mystery diesease so if they dont die from the attack they pass away soon after, these rats are not average sized either in fact they are more like the size of a dog. The novel has a host of horrific scenes of people being eaten alive. Harris an art teacher is the books hero and after he is taken into the confidence of the health minister and is told the Rats are the result of an experiment by a zooologist who has smuggled them into the counrty from the tropics. After a virus is given to the rats that at first appears to work and then the rats become resistant another plan has to be hatched to save human kind from destruction. This was the first horror novel I read and I can say you will not want to put it down it is brilliant. 197 pages of pure gore!

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          07.07.2009 00:37
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          A book with bite

          The Plot *************** The main character a teacher called harris teaches in a london school hoping to make a difference to some of the children in his class. That is until he takes one of his pupils to hospital suffering from a rat bite. He then discovers that a mother has brought in her baby who has also been attacked by a rat. The rats become more and more aggressive and attacks are happening in broad daylight. The race is on to find a way to stop the rats in their tracks. This was the first book i ever read by james herbert and i must admit even when i was younger it scared me to death. Even by today's standards the book is fairly graphic in places. The description of the attacks is at times gory and if you are squeamish then this may not be the book for you. What is scary is the fact that most of us are within a few feet or yards of a rat most of out lives and the thought they could plan and execute mass attacks on humans is a sobering thought. Its this idea that i think james herbet plays so well on, using an inner fear we may have and stretching it to the limit. If you are a fan of horror books this is one to get your teeth into. If on the other hand you are the same as me, with an over active imagination, then give it a miss, i for one will not be reading it again anytime soon

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          07.08.2008 20:13
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          the first book of a trilogy of stories, an amazing author, a real must have on your bookshelf.

          God I love these books, not for the faint hearted is my advice!! The story is set in London in about the 70's I think. Its about the outbreak of mutant rats which have been bred from rats on an island in New Guinea that was ravaged by nuclear radiation. The rats have a taste for human blood so as you can imagine its a bit bloody in parts. Very gory , amazing writing as you actually can imagine every scene as you read along! does not give you sweet dreams thats for sure! **Especially if you have pet rats as i do, i dreamt of them turning nasty lol stupid I know. My boyfriend has the whole collection, The Rats. The Lair and Domain. If you read this one you really should read the other as the story carries on though there are a fair few years between the books so the charactors are not continued through the books. The charactors are well introduced which I feel is key to enjoying the book you really have to know the charactors and then you can really feel the story as it unfolds for them. A great author not scary scary but pretty gory!

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            22.07.2008 22:04
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            The Rats is a schlock horror classic

            Rats have always freaked me out a bit - even before I picked this up. In fact it was my fear of rats and the masochistic part of myself that likes to mess around with my head that decided to read it in the first place - you know the part of you that decides to watch a horror film yourself in the house at 2 in the morning with the lights out and has your question just why you do this to yourself? So I picked the Rats up and started reading... and I was hooked. Very short and sharp scenes keep you going, thinking "I'll just read a little more" until you can almost bear it no longer. James Herbert has to be commended for thinking of the concept of rats that can kill with one bite. Every time a character is bitten you mourn them, knowing that they don't have much time left... I don't want to give away too much but you will be hooked right to the last page... and I don't think I am giving much away if I tell you it forms the first part of a loose trilogy.

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            17.06.2008 13:04
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            A book to read in the daylight

            I first read this book over twenty years ago when I was working in a hospital. Readers of James Herbert will know that this was not clever of me as I used to work the night shift, alone, and of course I would always be reading it scared to death. The Rats was Herbert's first novel which was first published in the seventies. The story is a little strange but once you read it you actually start to look at rats a little differently. Horrible little creatures anyway I think but after reading this book I screamed at my friend's pet rat! The Rats is about a man who finds himself in the middle of a terrible new event happening in London. The rats are growing and finding that they have a healthy appetite for human flesh. This book certainly does make you cringe at times, especially with the descriptions of the rats eating humans. Just remembering it now makes me shiver! The book describes people's experiences around London with the rats, including a school, basement and forest frolicking. James Herbert always writes horror novels which make people think, could this really happen? Of course most of his novels are supernatural and couldn't, but they still make you look at things in a different way. The Rats does just this and I thought for his first novel does quite well in grabbing the reader's attention and scaring them in many ways. The characters are forgettable I think and never held much sway with me which is a negative. Overall I did enjoy this book and like to read his other novels, however I do get scared very easily and this book did just this to me. This book can be picked up very easily online for around £5, I even saw it in a charity shop for 50p!

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            15.11.2006 08:25
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            RECOMMENDED

            I grew up with my sister being scared to death at night after reading James Herbert books and I never really felt the urge to follow suit. I detoured to Stephen King and Dean Koontz along the way and have finally, just finished my first James Herbert book at the grand old age of 34. In London in the seventies, Harris, an art teacher at a secondary school, is enjoying life. He loves his job and knows there are a few boys in his class that he could actually make a difference to. He has a steady girlfriend who he lives with and having grown up in the London area he feels at home and content. That is until one of his pupils comes to school with a rat bite to his hand. Harris takes the boy to hospital, encountering a maniacal mother in the emergency room, whose baby has just been mutilated by giant black rats! Keogh, the young boy with the rat bite to his hand, dies within 24 hours from a disease brought on by the bite, a disease that would normally only make the sufferer ill for a few days and then be on the mend. More and more deadly giant rat attacks are announced along with many cases of people dying through the bite and subsequent disease and London soon becomes in a grip of panic as people wonder what to do and where to go. Due to his knowledge of the area and his personal encounters with the rats it falls to Harris and a team put together by the government, to thrash out a solution to London’s macabre rat quandary. I chose The Rats as my first Herbert book as it was a small read, and I thought it would be a good starting point for my inherent addiction. I was right in the size and it took me only a few days to finish the 186 pages, but within those pages there is a main story, filled with horror and terrible descriptions of mutilation by the rats, all the time seeming to run alongside smaller stories about other characters who are quite small within the central plot but we are still given a back story for them, making them seem more central than they are. It is almost as though Herbert is padding out the story, as he couldn’t write enough to the main plot to make a novel sized book. This is not a bad thing in this case though and the padding is comfortable and does enhance the story for the reader. An instance of this is the sex-crazed character called Mary Kelly. We are given quite a lot of back-story for her, right from her early days and subsequent relationships, through to her descent into drunkenness and vagrancy. She crops up over a few chapters and every time she is spoken about, descriptions of sex of some sort usually accompanies it, so be warned as there are some graphic paragraphs which may offend some people. Although her character ties in with the plot, it is not an essential addition and it seems strange that Herbert put so much time and effort into detailing her for us. One of the things that always put me off reading this book was the fact that it was about rats. I am not scared of them per se, and they wouldn’t feature high on my horror list of animals. They are more dirty in my mind than vicious, however after reading this book I can see why people are scared of them. Herbert has a fantastic way of describing the horror they are causing. He does give us descriptions of the rats themselves but the fear comes in when you are reading what they are doing to the humans. It is pretty gory and is certainly not restrained in the detail of flesh and bone. I found this engrossing though and rather than being put off by the gore I found myself intrigued to read on and see how the next victim was killed along with the desire to find the origin of the giant, black, killer rat! The Rats is a dated book now and you can easily see that from the way he describes things in London. No one has a mobile and the old bombed out buildings from the war, in a run down East End are still about, obviously making great lairs for the rats to breed and multiply. It was a world much removed from what I can remember so made it kind of interesting. I don’t usually go for period books as I cannot associate with the era, but this book, although out of my era is easy to bring to life in your minds eye. (I was born early 70’s but only parallel things with the 80’s as that was my time to experience London trips and so on.) I had no problem creating an image of the streets and canals portrayed here and I would imagine they would be fairly true to life. Think a little bit drab and little bit dreary, everyone seeming to be dressed in browns and greys and you’ll get what my mind had conjured up. This book would be in the short, sharp, shock category for me I think. It is short to read, sharp with his descriptions of events and this in turn shocks you enough to make you check the area round the wheelie bin before putting your rubbish out! But for me it was something else as well. It was an introduction to another new author I had no dealings with before now. I was always faithful to King and in later years Koontz but Herbert has certainly impressed me enough with his first novel from way back in 1974, that I will happily read more of his work and see what scared my sister so much all those years ago!

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              22.12.2001 01:46
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              I have to confess to not being a great reader. I get bored easily with any book which tries to delve too deeply into the characters or settings at the expense of moving the story on a t a brisk pace. There are exceptions to this, but in the main I tend to steer away from those novels which others would term the ‘classics’. As a result you’ll be more likely to see me sniffing around the horror/fantasy/adventure sections of my local bookstore...rather than searching out the likes of a Thackery, Hardy or such like. In terms of books which are gory, direct and have a lightning fast pace you can’t get better than the early work of James Herbert. In terms of literary style and finesse you probably can’t get much worse than James Herbert but it depends if what you want from a book is to ooh and aaah at the author’s intelligence or to be sent on a rollercoaster ride by him. The Rats offers you a gruesome page turner which could hardly be called a relaxing read but its certainly one which is tough to put down once you pick it up. To me, it reads like a Stephen King novel without all the ‘padding’ which King uses to bump his up to 500+ pages long which may or may not be a good thing...to an impatient reader like me, its a good thing. ;o) The story is set in London and despite the fact that the novel is now over 25 years old it still has the feel of being set just yesterday. perhaps because of the artistry of the author(haha!) but more likely because of the lack of real description of the surroundings etc. I suppose the thought is that we all know what a subway looks like, or a busy London street so no need to describe it to death. Either way, it appears that the book has been created to suit just about any time whether it be a week ago when I found it lurking up in our loft and gave it another read or when I last read it as a teenager 10+ years ago or on the day it was published. The main premise is as simple as they come, straight out of the realms of 50s B-movies. London is under siege from a swarm of giant black rats which mutated into small dog sized, vicious blood thirsty creatures with above average intellect from feeding on a pile of contaminated grain. They moved from that home into the sewers where they first gained their taste for human flesh from attacking and eating the ‘already dead’ husk of a tramp who had once been a successful businessman...then migrating onto attacking a child and then a woman and her baby before laying siege to a school, a subway and a zoo before things really start to get out of hand. The government is at a loss as to how to control the outbreak so it falls to out hero, a school teacher who survived one attack, to track down the lair and save the day... The Rats is fast paced and brutal and certainly not for the squeamish. It is also not particularly intelligent and blatantly obvious in the plot devices it is using to keep the reader turning the pages so you’ll probably get the feeling that its insulting your intelligence if you delve too deeply into it, but if you are looking for something to pick up when your mind becomes tired of struggling through War and Peace or such like, and have the stomach for it, then you can’t say fairer than this. I hate being forced to think too hard when reading so of course I love these kinds of trashy novels ;o). It bears all the hallmarks of an author embarking upon their career, this being the first novel publish by James Herbert, complete with a distinctly linear plot which flies straight as an arrow to its inevitable conclusion and some bizarre characterisation decisions. Herbert seems to devote entire chapters to characters who are only built up to be slaughtered at the end of that chapter, detailing huge portions of their lives and characters before turning them into rat food whilst affording the hero of the story and other constant characters the merest of glimps es. Characters are put there to die and that fate is obvious from the moment they are described out of the blue but it is the detail and pace with which is occurs which keeps your interest. As ludicrous as the plot may sound, the thought of just how many rats we do have, vastly outnumbering people and then what they could do if they were to become hostile is quite a frightening one and Herbert, whilst not maximising the effect of this, does a good job a spinning off an action packed tale at least from this premise. It is easy to criticise and not so easy to say why it works as well as it does. It ought not to, the whole thing is a shambles when you look more closely at it. The pages are kept turning with the final words to a chapter being along the lines of: “...and things were about to get so much worse...” ...or such like wherein he may as well have written: “KEEP READING, THE NEXT CHAPTER IS MORE VIOLENT AND BLOODY THAN THE LAST!!” ...because the effect is about as subtle. Its always obvious what he is doing, using such things as a baby for a victim, children(the attack on a school) and such like which are always guaranteed to generate the ultimate horror and revulsion simply because they trigger the protective response in us all and have long been staple fare of the horror genre be it books, movies or whatever - they’re an easy way to get a scare. At the same time there are the occasional moments of cleverness such as in the usage of the claustrophobic subway tunnel for the scene of a major attack or even in how the rats are viewed originally - not demonise them straight away, but instead blaming us for how they have become. We created the tramp who they first kill - the rat’s natural instinct being to feed on dead meat and the tramp already being effectively dead meat in a society which built him up into a successful businessman and then tore out his heart by taking th at all away. His is effectively a living death and the rats fed upon him first before breaking with nature and attacking the living for food...ultimately we are reaping our own rewards for a sick society. This kind of thing is few and far between though(and was probably not on Herbert’s mind anyway lol) as the whole book plays like a fast paced, gory horror movie with each chapter being devoted to a scene of mayhem and carnage described in vivid, bloody detail before flashing on to the next. The book was made into a movie in 1983 which goes by the name of "The Rats" or more commonly "Deadly Eyes" but sadly it really wasn’t very good at all. It is a shame because this book really does seem to lend itself to a fast paced action/horror movie but instead the treatment it was given was a low budget adaptation full of screams and fake furry things flying around all over the place. Funniest thing of all though is that someone in their infinite wisdom thought of an ingenious way to portray the rats...they used DACHSHUNDS IN RAT COSTUMES!!!! Now excuse me, but your common variety dachshund is hardly the scariest of beastie in the world and to be honest, a dachshund in a very fake looking rat costume is rather a funny sight no matter how much the 5 bob a show actors and actresses may scream at their presence...far too funny for words! I would love to recommend it to you but I really can’t and to be honest you’ll he hard pressed to find it anywhere now I would have thought anyway...its hardly an enduring classic! Returning back to the novel then, one major criticism I have would be that the ending is somewhat abrupt, almost as if Herbert got bored writing the novel and drew it to a rapid close so that he could get on with more interesting things...but I suppose its in keeping with the pacing of the rest of the novel when you think about it. When I read this at 13/14 I thought it was an awesome book and then rushed out to find as many of his others as possible, which for that matter includes The Lair and Domain as sequels to this one(Domain is far better). Having read it again as an adult, I can see the whole thing is literally littered with holes etc. but it was a still a lot of fun to read because it does keep you turning the pages quickly and it is a very short book too at a couple of hundred pages(maybe less, the book is back up in the loft and its too cold to go look lol) so you can read it easily in one sitting. It does get a little on the gory side though so its obviously not going to be to everyone’s taste but for those who like horror fiction its definitely worth a look.

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                04.05.2001 20:20
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                When I first read The Rats by James Herbert I though wow, this is a really cool new book. I was amazed to find out that it was first published in 1974. Having read the book you would have no idea the period it was set in, well obviously it would be fairly recent, but it hadn’t seemed to have aged much in the twenty odd years since it was first published to when I read it. For any fans of horror books this is a must to read, it is gruesomely realistic and will have you on the edge all the while you are reading the book. To wet your appetite here is an extract from the blurb: “…For millions of years man and rats have been natural enemies. But for the first time – suddenly, shockingly, horribly – the balance of power has shifted…” Having now wet your appetite for the book if you read on I it will spoil the plot of the book for you, if you were thinking about reading it, so please do not read the following. ** Plot Warning ** Firstly let me apologise, it has been a while since I have read this, so it may not be completely accurate, but you will get the basic picture. The story starts off at the lair where the rats started from and spread through the city, at the time you don’t know this, you find out later on, but it is ironic that the start of the book is where it finished off. The rats had somehow been mutated and had become very intelligent. Now the size of small dogs with a very evil temper and a taste for human flesh the rats started to run terror on the residents of London. Using the sewer system to their full advantage, they spread very quickly and in numbers, London now had a new terror to watch out for. The story is based around a teacher come hero named Harris, who first raised the alarm finding that one of the children in his class had been bitten by a rat, a big rat. Having taken the boy to the hospital the next day he gets a visit from the Ministry of Health, as the boy had got a strange illness (passed to him from the rats). The rest of the book is based around the Ministry of Health trying to stop the infestation of these huge rats, lots of people getting ripped to shreds by the rats. The government having failed to stop this crisis Harris eventually, with help from the Ministry finds the lair of the rats. What he finds there is amazing. A hugely overweight rat, super intelligent rat, controls the rats, which had to be killed or the problem would never go away. The book, ends on a cliffhanger, some rats get away and a special rat, a white one is born, which will be the future for the rats. This ending leads on to another book called Lair, also by James Herbert. ** End of Plot ** * My Thoughts * This is a very well laid out book, which keeps you wanting to read more and more. I had to keep reading, which for me is strange as I am not that great a reader, but this book kept me hooked all the way through. It may not be the longest book ever, but it is certainly one of the best books that I have read. James Herbert creates a very good atmosphere for the book and is very graphic is the writing about the horror that the rats perform. If you are interested in this book, there are two sequels to this one. The first called Lair, which carries off from the end of The Rats and Domain, which is about a post apocalyptic London, which is being mauled by the rats as they now seem to have even more power than they had before. This is a masterpiece in my view and should be read by any fan or horror. This is not to be read by people scared of rats, as it will only make it worse!

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                  07.03.2001 00:46
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                  Now I know why my mrs is so scared of Rats. I'm sure she would be in an early grave if she read this intense story. I absolutely love this book it's defenitly one of Herbets best. It tells the story of a bunch of mutated, extra inteligent black rats that acquire a taste for human flesh. As you know rats breed very quickly and very soon London is faced with the problem of thousands of rats attacking people. To give just two examples a cinema full of people comes under attack and everyoneis slaughtered and they also manage to stop a tube and kill a whole bunch of people. In the middle of all this a teacher finds himself to be the hero several times and so the government decide he should help eliminate them. If you have never read a Herbet book there is no better place to start than with the RATS. It grips you from start to finnish and is riddled with sadistic vermin who love violence and carnage. However if you scare easy then maybe you should start with something a bit easier like FLUKE.

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                    04.02.2001 18:50
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                    This was the first of James Herberts novels and remains one of the bloodiest, there are countless incidents where he describes in gory detail mutilations where you can actually picture yourself there and feel the terror, some of them really do literally put a shiver down your spine. The story itself centres around London where an imported breed of rats has mutated and developed a taste for human flesh, the scene is then set for these creatures to run amok around the streets and buildings. This leads to some really gory scenes which are written so graphically by Herbert you can almost hear the bones crunching. In fact there is one such scene which once youve read it I can guarantee that you will never ever go to the movies again without a little niggling thought in the back of your mind about what was so graphically described. It isnt just a blood and guts thing though as there is a good fast paced story behind it which sets the scene quite well for the next 2 instalments in the Rats triology, Lair and Domain. Interestingly James Herbert was inspired to write this book by a line from a dracula movie .... "I have seen a 1000 rats with red eyes looking at me from the lawns" Incidentaly there was a film based on the book which was released in 1982, unbelievable as it seems I have never actually seen it (yet) but apparently it does not do justice to the book. However until I have seen it I will reserve judgement.

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                      31.10.2000 05:05
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                      One Sunday afternoon I found this on a friends bookshelf. As I was a bit bored I decided to read it. Peaceful reading it wasn't! It started off gently enough but it built into an unputdownable book within two chapters, I was hooked, I was frightened to turn each page, yet anxious to get pulled back from the cliff-edge I found myself on (metaphorically speaking). What told me this was a true shocker is when I was so wrapped up in the book, the writing was so good I felt I was there, so that when one shocking incident happened I screamed out loud! I don't know about you but I was stunned. I would never have believed that the written word could so capture my imagination. I think the main reason for this is that the book is so - well, believeable. I have always found the prospect of rats taking over totally possible. Okay, maybe not in the way James Herbert writes it, but enough to find his investigation of the possibilities both fascinating and terrifying. To tell you the plot would possibly detract from your enjoyment of this book, so I won't. I will, however, tell you that after I read this book I went out and bought the other two books in the trilogy. This was about ten years ago now and I often wonder why I did, it's like when you are a kid and someone tells you that if you put your tongue on both contacts on the top of a PP3 battery it gives you a nasty electric shock. You just have to try it don't you? You don't? Ah, well maybe just The Rats will be enough for you then! If you agree with me then you are in for a treat, bacause I reckon you will love both this book and its companions. (Just you make sure you have cats around as you read - just in case!).

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                        14.08.2000 21:08

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                        A charming tale of diseased killer rats munching their way through the population of an area of London. At first these rats appear to be nothing more than just larger than average rats but then the truth becomes clear because even if you get bitten by them and survice then you will probably be dead soon anyway. This a great example of James Herbert writing an excellent piece of suspense horror in his usual style. This is one of Herberts earlier works and is very good, it is interesting to see how this book compares with some of his more recent ones. As with all James Herbert novels though he loves to introduce characters only to kill them off a couple of pages later. As the mence of the rats becomes apparent steps are gradually taken to attempt to erradicate them. Will our long suffering hero be able to banish their furry fiends forever or will they escape to munch on boys and girls in the future. Seing as there are two more books in the series there is a bit of a clue to the answer to that particular question.

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                        16.07.2000 02:40
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                        When you think about horror writers the names Stephen King and Dean Koonz always spring to mind. Have you heard of James Herbert he is a British horror writer, and has wrote lots of famous stories such as The Fog, Fluke, The Survivor and loads more. The book I want to write about is The Rats, this is one of my favourite books written by him. This story is about the black rat from Asia, this rat is known for being a lot bigger and nastier than the ordinary brown rat. Somehow the black rat has found it's way into Britain, this doesn't really pose a threat, but the black rat becomes mutated, a mad scientist has carried out secret experiments on them. This has turned the Black Rat into a killer, they show no fear towards humans, and we have become their prey. Worst of all if one of these rats bite you, they infect you with a rabies type disease. There is no vaccination, so you just die a horrible death. The story is about a race against time, to try and find a way to destroy the rats forever, as these rats do not respond to traditionally poisons like Warfarin. This is a truly thrilling book by Herbert, possibly one of his best. Don't overlook this thrilling writer, or this particular book.

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                      For millions of years man and rats had been natural enemies. But now for the first time - suddenly, shockingly, horribly - the balance of power had shifted and the rats began to prey on the human population.