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.Synopsis from Goodreads.
Centering on East End Art Teacher, Harris, The Rats follows a sickening tale of aggressive mutant rats killing the residents of post-war London.
While the story itself was an uninteresting one, Herbert’s talent lied in his characterisation and mutant rats. Each character that dies is gifted with a rich character profile, detailing their lives almost from beginning to end. This enabled an element of sympathy for their deaths, which you might be deprived of with other en-mass killings – you become emotionally involved in the story.
Harris is an idealistic, but settled, man; working class and wanting to educate children with his social background, he is a have-a-go hero of sorts. At a time when government dissatisfaction was prevalent, having a hero like Harris was an interesting move. Harris represents the identifiable everyman, who, considering his education, solves a problem with relative ease that the Government was unable to.
It has been argued that Herbert reinvented the Horror genre, however, while I wasn’t expecting The Rats to be greusom, it did not scare me. This leads me to wonder if, in this modern era of Saw, The Walking Dead and The Ring, I am desensitised to what was at the time of publication a very graphic novel.