Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Fog

Just after Stephen King created the horror industry back in the Seventies U.S. publishers began importing British writers who walked the same streets as the master. One of those was Brit superstar James Herbert. While he never quite found the audience he deserved over here, a number of his novels have stayed with me long after the more successful imports have faded completely from my memory.

My favorite Herbert is titled The Fog and it continues the long and heralded tradition of the British disaster novel. Sometimes the disaster is an alien invasion as with H.G. Wells and sometimes the disaster is unworldly seeming yet of our world as with the great John Wyndham.

In Herbert's novel a yellow fog begins moving across England causing much of the population to go insane and begin committing atrocities on family, friends and anyone else they can get their hands on. Even animals go insane; pets become killers. A group of scientists in a bunker race to learn why one of them is immune to the effects fog.

What raises this story to the level of a classic is not just the shock effects--Herbert can jolt the most jaded of readers--but the portraits he draws of his people. He cuts across all ages and all classes. Unlike most Big Bestsellers he makes us care about them and in so doing he gives the reader the race-against-the-clock story with the scientists and the anxiety of seeing real people face their fates.

Centipede Press has just issued a collector's edition of the novel complete with a beautiful cover homage to the U.S. paperback edition and a long, fine introduction by horror legend Ramsey Campbell.

Thought it's a lengthy novel, I read this new edition in two sittings. It's a thriller that truly belongs on the same shelf as H.G. Wells, the early catastrophe novels of J.G. Ballard and the classic work of the late John Wyndham.


MP said...

I really liked Herbert's early novels and you're right, "The Fog" was the best one by far. For some reason I stopped reading his books in the mid-80s, and I can't remember whether it was because of a lessening of quality or because they stopped being published here. I hope your recommendation will get others to read it, but at $85 the Cenitpede Press edition is an outrage.

Todd Mason said...

And people shouldn't confuse this THE FOG with Dennis Etchison's pseudonymous novelization of the film, THE FOG...

Harry Shannon said...

I remember some of his rats novels, but haven't read this one. Will check it out.

Will Errickson said...

I read THE FOG about 20 years ago, don't recall much of it now but just recently found a cool old paperback of it. Now that I'm all set to reread it, it's good to hear it's now considered a classic of its kind!