The book starts off with a note from the author:
While the giant crabs were slowly dying from cancer, as told in Crabs on the Rampage, a massive battle was still to be fought on the east coast, where the crustaceans were to make one final attempt to overthrow mankind. This is the story of that final battle, set against the background of a macabre cult of crab worshippers and human sacrifice.
We begin proper with a prologue, with some of the most intensely written text I think I’ve ever read:
The girl’s voice was a hoarse vibrating whisper in the eerie stillness of the deserted supermarket, her strikingly attractive face deathly white in the glow of the single dim light, her lithe body pressed back against a rack of shelves, taut and twisted, as though she was trying to wriggle in among the jars and cans, hide herself.
“Shut up.” Her companion was a tall young man dressed in ragged jeans and scuffed black jacket, his bushy unkempt beard accentuating his wild appearance. He glanced in her direction just once, enough to afford her a glimpse of his eyes, twin orbs that seemed to stand out and blaze with hatred and madness, that sent another pang of fear like a knife thrust into her stomach (page 1).
Holy adjectives, Batman!
The girl is Christine, and the man is Pete Merrick, who she’s deathly afraid of. They’re inside a grocery store freezer and he is methodically injecting strychnine into their stock of poultry. It’s just a bit before the Christmas season and poultry is a pretty hot commodity. Pete, as it turns out, is a militant animal rights terrorist. We learn through a flashback that Christine accompanied Pete out on an expedition the previous year and strung some razor wire between two trees, directly across a path a fox-hunt would be taking later that evening. Which is a little odd, because if you’re using an actual fox (which they were) you can’t really predict where it’s going to run. Anyway, they hide in the bushes and the hunters come along and a major is beheaded by the razor wire.
Christine hopes that Pete is going to phone in the poison threat, so everyone will only be scared, but Pete shoots that down: he fully intends to let people buy and eat the birds and die horribly, and to take credit afterwards. She makes a weak attempt to talk him out of it, but that doesn’t go anywhere.
After all but two of the birds are dosed with poison, they head home. Before they go to bed, however, there’s something they need to do. Apparently it’s some kind of sadistic ritual they have, which I can kinda buy, but it’s still a little…bizarre. Pete strips naked and then gets out his karate black belt and puts it on. He then pulls out a samurai sword that he calls the Executioner. Christine then strips naked and lies on the bed. And…nothing happens.
For half an hour.
I mean, yeah, it’s some kind of sadistic mind game. I can buy that, it’s pretty apparent that Pete is fucking nuts. But…seriously? Picture the scene in your head: a bedroom with a woman lying on the bed, stark naked and shivering because it’s very cold. Standing across the room is a man, completely naked except for a black karate belt around his waist, sporting a massive erection (as Smith explains a moment later) and a samurai sword.
And they stay like that all night.
In the next chapter we’re introduced to a chap named Wally, who’s out duck-hunting. We get some fairly uninteresting but not badly written backstory which establishes that Wally is a local and a pretty ordinary, likeable guy, although a bit of a loner.
Wally thinks about the animal rights terrorists, including the turkey poisoning incident, which apparently was awhile ago and killed eleven people, including three kids.
Anyway, he gets some birds and heads back in, but is intercepted by three people, who turn out to be Pete, Christine, and a chap named Alan. Pete and Alan beat him up, smash his shotgun, tie him up, and then take him back to the marshes. Pete pulls out his samurai sword and chops Wally’s legs off and they leave him there to die, either by bleeding out, drowning from the tide (because they’re by the ocean) or being eaten by the crabs [!!!].
We now head over to a delightful young couple named Louise and Brian, who are out at a deserted beach. One thing leads to another, and despite Louise being rather embarrassed and worried they’ll be seen, they start going at it.
“I wonder what that clicking noise is,” she said. “It’s coming from the creek.”
“We’ll investigate later,” he promised, and came up on top of her, pushed gently all the way into her (page 30).
Hmm. Young, pretty people having sex in a book about horrible monsters? What are the odds they’re going to die?
Pretty damn good. Louise is about to have (in Smith’s words) a “mind-blowing orgasm” when suddenly they see the crab and leap up, terrified. It’s the size of an adult Labrador. And it’s clicking, instead of going dad-a-chum, which is weird. They stare at it in horror, rooted to the spot:
Her boyfriend crouched beside her still fully aroused but his erection forgotten (page 31).
Thanks for that little detail, Smith, it really helps set the scene.
The crab’s face is filled with hatred and evil, which seems a little expressive for a fucking crab. They finally turn to run but too late: the crab grabs Louse’s leg in a claw and shears it off. Smith notes that the crab’s claws are razor-sharp, which normally would be a bit of an exaggeration, but in the real world, crabs aren’t the size of Labradors. Brian tries to drag Louise to safety, but the crab grabs her other leg and tugs on it until it’s amputated at the knee. Brian picks Louise up and tries to carry her to safety, but they run into a creek. He tries to jump it, but with Louise over his shoulder he shorts it, and then the crab is upon them. It grabs Louise, tears her throat open, and starts to devour her:
Louise’s head hung by bloody sinews; the crab was devouring her soft shapely breasts now, slurping on the tender flesh. Awkwardly using its claws as knives to disembowel her, pulling at the lengths of warm offal, delving into the gaping wounds (page 35).
After that, the crab snicks off Brian’s legs and eats them, and then his arms as well, but at that point the crab is satisfied, so he heads back into the ocean, leaving torso-boy there to slowly bleed out and die.
In Chapter Three, we meet Professor Cliff Davenport, who I suspect is our hero, since he’s been tracking the crab menace for years. There’s a mention of the crab invasion on the Welsh coast, and a helpful asterisk advises me to read the first book in the series, Night of the Crabs, which I will respectfully decline.
Cliff talks to his wife Pat about the crabs, which are all around England, murdering people on a regular basis. Probably the only helpful thing we learn in this scene is that these crabs are capable of thinking and planning. Cliff believes that the crabs are showing themselves to trick the military into thinking they’re going somewhere they’re not actually going, which is a level of sophistication you don’t often see in the Malacostraca class.
We head over to a river, where the Royal Navy has cornered a crab the size of a cow. They use some heavy artillery to smash its shell and then shoot it with rifles until it’s dead, which pisses off some of the onlookers, who start feeling bad for the crabs. Now, that rings hollow. The crabs have killed HUNDREDS of people over the past few years. You really expect people to be upset about soldiers killing man-eating monsters? Especially ugly ones?
Of course, Pete and Christine just happen to be present and watching. Pete is outraged, of course. He gives an impromptu speech to his group of followers about the crabs and how they’re really gods [???]. He references the Bible, and wraps up with the logical conclusion: the only way the crabs can be satiated is by giving them human sacrifices. Instead of realizing that Pete is insane, everyone just kinda agrees.
And, as it just so happens, Pete has the perfect victim in mind.
In the fourth chapter, we meet Susan Delphore. She’s hot, rich, and spoiled. Her father made his fortune by importing furs, so there’s that connection. Anyway, there’s plenty of familial strife. They all argue over dinner and Susan storms out and drives off in her Porsche.
They’d argued over her boyfriend, who isn’t rich enough to please her bitch of a mother. His name is David. Ordinary, but a likeable chap. We get several pages of backstory. She meets up with him, they hang for a bit, talk about crabs (brachyura, not phthirus pubis) and she heads home. When she gets close she hits the brakes because there’s a body lying in the road. After panicking for a bit she gets out to see if it’s alive, and she’s snatched by Pete and his gang of animal rights terrorists who drag her off toward the marshes.
Susan, naturally, is a bit worried, but holds out hope that they’re going to ransom her. This hope begins to dwindle as they reach the oceanside and Pete makes her strip naked. A few crude jokes later, they lay her spread-eagled on the ground, drive stakes into the ground, and tie her hands and legs to the stakes. Then they leave.
Susan, naturally, freaks out for a bit, and we get some more uninteresting backstory. Now, I know that Smith is trying to make us identify with her so it’s a bit more of a blow when she’s killed, but honestly, this is overkill. Most readers already identify with Susan because of her family strife in the last chapter, and the rest of the readers are frenetically masturbating to the image of Susan lying naked, spread-eagled, and tied to stakes.
After a few pages of annoying attempted character development, there’s a clicking sound. She turns….and SEES THEM! IT IS VERY DRAMATIC! I have this feeling that Smith is trying just a little too hard to make this scary. Listen, buddy, giant pincer-wielding crustaceans are freaky enough. You don’t need to overdo it.
The crabs attack and sever her limbs and eat them. Then the leader of the crabs shows up. It smells terrible.
The big crab took what was rightfully his, slit the human body from throat to groin in a single slicing moment; instant disembowelment (page 68).
Uh…rightfully his? These are fucking crabs. What the hell are you talking about?
We jump back to Susan’s parents, who don’t have a good relationship, but I don’t really care. Her mother is worried because she isn’t home yet.
Anyway, after some argument they call Susan’s boyfriend David, who explains that Susan left two hours ago. Her mother flips her lid, naturally, but before she can panic too much, they get a phone call from a muffled voice who claims they’re from the Eastern Counties Animal Rights Group, and that Susan will never be coming home because she’s been sacrificed to the crabs. Susan’s parents hope that it’s just a prank caller, but the next day the fuzz find a bloody patch of grass out in the marshland. The chapter ends with an intense line from who I would assume is our omniscient narrator, who has a flair for the dramatic.
The human sacrifices had begun! (page 74)