The Rats James Herbert BOOK REVIEW


JANET QUINLIVAN looks back on The Rats, the publishing debut for master of horror, James Herbert

The Rats

My first ever James Herbert Book which I read when I was 15. I was searching through a local second hand book shop and seen the cover it was the first thing that drew me to buy it then there was the Blurb on the back, wow!

This story is about the havoc, chaos and death caused by masses of vicious, violent and always hungry, mutant massive rats that roam London. The story starts rather quickly from a child in a school (his teacher is our main character) getting bitten to babies, animals and humans alike being torn to shreds and devoured by these massive rodents.

This is Herbert’s debut novel, and wow did he start with a bang! As mentioned in my last article this book was an instant hit. The book itself is a really quick read but it really packs a punch. Yes it’s a classic 70’s horror but that’s also what I love about it. It’s so compelling when it comes to being able to visualise what these things look like and how they act. Herbert adds a mind numbing fear when he hints that these things know what you are thinking and can act accordingly. They are sneaky, intelligent and have figured out rather quickly that working as a team is key and that they are the top of the food chain now.

The Rats James Herbert

Our main character Harris is a well-rounded character with a solid story line and back ground. He first notices his student’s rat bitten hand and takes him to hospital for treatment. The next day the student was dead due to a very devastating disease caused by the bite.

So now we know if they don’t eat you alive you will die anyway with one bite – nice! Doctors state the concern lies in the rising number of rat attacks around London. Soon Harris is involved with the Ministry of Health to show them where the incident occurred and so this is how his story starts.

It goes on to the London underground being attacked, when a young researcher comes up with the idea to infect some puppies with a virus to kill the rats and leave them in the attack areas. This works for a while and kills thousands of rats. However they build up immunity and go on to take over parks and even London Zoo.

The majority of the characters in this books are believable, with a nice or some not so nice (drugs, drink, sex and violence) background story. However most of them are rat food which suits me as a horror fan!

This book from the start is violent, gory, bloody and a generally action packed monster rat fest. But the story of these monsters does not end there. Herbert has written two more books Lair and Domain.

They didn’t go away…

This book was made into a movie called ‘Deadly Eyes’ and for me the movie was on par with ‘Sharktopus’, ‘Lavalantula’ and ‘Sharknado’.

The rats were Dachshunds dressed as rats and that was clear to the viewer. It tried to stick to the story, but the poor dialogue and effects left a lot to be desired. It left characters empty and with poor acting it really didn’t show this story in the best light.

Disappointing all round really. The movie received very bad reviews and I fear it may have discourage some from reading the book.

If you are an avid horror fan or just like a good action story then this is the book for you!

Keep your eyes out for my next James Herbert book review.


  1. Wow, your review of James Herbert’s masterpiece THE RATS was fantastic! I couldn’t have written better superlatives myself about this awesome bookl. I first read Herbert’s debut novel way back in September 1975 (yes, I even vividly remember the exact date, that’s how much of a nmenoic impression the book made on me), and was completely blown away by its ineffable evocations of horror and terror as his monstrous flesh-eating rats go on the rampage in 70s London. And when he wrote LAIR, I was even more excited, and the minute the paperback was released in the summer of 1979, I instantly snapped up. I did buy the third part of The Rats trilogy in August 1985, Domain, although to be honest I thought this was the weaker of the three books, and unfortunately lacked the sheer brilliance of the first two. But getting back to The Rats, as I say, this book is my No. 1 horror novel of all time, and even inspired me to start writing horror fiction myself.


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