Slugs by Shaun Hutson
I remember seeing the hideous nature gone wild VHS cover on trips to the video store and being fascinated. I wasn’t allowed to check it out, but for some reason reading the book was a loophole. There is no creature slimier than slugs and Shaun Hutson puts them to gory good use in this book. Carnivorous slugs rise from the sewers and invade a small town. These slugs have teeth and are poisonous. There are some fantastic scenes including slugs getting inside a woman while she’s having sex and a disgusting lunch vomiting scene. It will ensure a lifetime of checking your salad for slugs. This is definitely the grossest book on the list. This is a gorefest of fun, and spawned a sequel, Breeding Ground, and of course the Slugs movie recently released by Arrow Video.
Rats by James Herbert
In classic B Movie style, mutated giant rats the size of dogs invade London from the sewers. The attacks begin low key but end with rat assaults on a movie theatre and London zoo. A small group has to work together to put a stop to the plague of rats before it’s too late. It’s brutal and gory with lots of deaths by hungry rats, and they are not delicate with their food. There was more to the story than just monsters though. There is also a social commentary on post World War II decay in London and the consequences of a neglectful government. The book spawned two sequels, Lair and Domain. It was the basis for the 1982 Rat feature, Deadly Eyes.
Breeding Ground by Sarah Pinborough
This apocalyptic novel begins with women all over the world suddenly becoming pregnant and putting on weight. They are incredibly protective of their offspring to be and are not themselves. It turns out they are all carrying large, intelligent spiders. Yes, spiders. There is plenty of gore and scares in this book. The spiders are vicious. We follow some survivors who hole up together and the danger of the spiders is replaced by the danger of internal feuding. This book has a sequel, Feeding Ground, which continues the story.
Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
The Day of the Triffids is the oldest book on the list, written in 1951. It has been adapted many times for both big and small screens. Killer carnivorous plants called Triffids have sprouted up all over the world. They are tall, poisonous, and are even mobile. If that wasn’t bad enough, a meteor shower has blinded all who witnessed it. So we have killer plants preying on the blind. It’s scary stuff and we follow the survivors as they try to make sense of a world where society has collapsed. It has a War of the Worlds sci-fi feel and director Danny Boyle has said that the hospital opening for this book was the inspiration for the opening of 28 Days Later.
Jaws by Peter Benchley
Jaws is surely the the most impactful of any nature run amok books. Ever since its publication in 1974 and subsequent smash hit movie adaptation, generations of people have had a nervousness and uncertainty about the sea. What could be lurking unseen beneath the surface? I think we are all probably familiar with the story; a great white shark stalks the swimmers and boaters of Amity, Rhode Island. Sheriff Brody, marine biologist Hooper, and gnarled fisherman Quint hunt the shark. The book, however, does have some differences from the movie – most notably an exploding oxygen tank does not kill the shark and the same people don’t survive.
Cujo by Stephen King
What happens when man’s best friend becomes his enemy? That’s the question Stephen King answers in Cujo. A large St. Bernard dog gets bitten by a rabid bat and turns into a killer. The iconic moment here is when Donna and Tad become trapped in a broken down and boiling hot car as the dog stalks them. A child in peril and a mother’s fear is the hook to these scares. As with most of these beastly tales it was adapted for the big screen, as the movie of the same name was released in 1983.
Worm by Tim Curran
There’s a problem with a new subdivision in town. The plumbing is all messed up. Unfortunately for the residents, it’s because of large worms filled with bristling sharp teeth and a taste for flesh. The worms attack and provide gross and brutal kills. It’s worm assault set piece after set piece. Giant worm coming up through the toilet while someone is sitting on it? Check. That’s the kind of fun you get with this book. It’s B movie schlock fun, with the grue turned up to 11. It’s in much the same spirit as the Tremors movies.
The Flesh by Richard Laymon
The villain of this book is a body-invading parasite. This is an exploitation title all the way, with a phallic, slimy, glistening, tubular parasite. The creature burrows its way into the body via any available entrance and turns the host into a killer. It really feels like Cronenberg’s Shivers. It’s graphic and has gratuitous nudity. It’s not very deep, but it is a slimy fun ride. It was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for best novel in 1988.
Clickers by J.F. Gonzalez and Mark Williams
Venomous over-sized crabs attack a small town in Maine, driven out of the depths of the ocean by an unseen force. What follows is bone crunching and dismemberment. Oh, and these crabs have poisonous stingers too. A classic B movie feature on the written page, but with an added Lovecraftian touch. This cult book spawned three sequels including Clickers vs. Zombies written by Gonzalez and horror fiction stalwart Brian Keene. The crabs theme is a throwback to author Guy N. Smith who had a whopping seven-book killer crab series.
The Swarm by Arthur Herzog
You might remember the movie adaptation of this book by the same name from 1978 featuring Michael Caine, Richard Chamberlain, and Henry Fonda. The film was infamously bad and, unfortunately, only the second worst movie with bees in it; I’m looking at you, Nicholas Cage. The book was much better, and brings us a tale of African killer bees on the rampage, and the desperate struggle of scientists and the military to stop them.