‘Alligators’ is great. It follows one of the classic Guy N. Smith formulas: wild animal runs riot, many people die horribly, screaming for their lives. As you might expect, the wild animals in this book are Alligators, specifically Caimans, including a female who has a memory of eating children before she was captured and fondly recalls the taste of human flesh.
The alligators are released from a local zoo by a gang of animal activists, two of which are immediately torn apart and eaten. Alligators are not known for their gratitude, although they clearly have a highly developed sense of irony. From here on in, it’s textbook Smith: guts fly, faces are shredded, severed heads roll, legs and arms are chomped down like twiglets. It’s a blood bath.
Our continuity is provided by a thoughtful vet and his new girlfriend, a former animal activist turned receptionist / sex toy. Their relationship is interesting, not least because he is permanently distracted by his job, leaving their trysts saying that a sick goat needs him, or basking in the afterglow of their lovemaking by thinking about delousing a donkey.
Every now and again, we are privileged to get inside the alligators heads, and it’s a revelation. As befitting a species that is around 37 million years old, Smith gives the alligator an archaic sounding, rather formal turn of thought, as in the wonderful scene where the female tells the male to sling his hook:
‘The mating season is gone. I have no
further need of you. Be gone!’
I’d have liked to have heard Johnny Morris narrate that in one of his funny voices.
Smith saves most of his ire for animal activists, here presented as an ugly, dirty lunatic fringe led by a scarred and psychotic sadist called Maurice Jones. Jones once contaminated some cottage cheese with urine, so you know he means business. After much unpleasantness, including rape, murder and multiple threats of castration, Jones' beloved alligator stands on him, squishing his guts out in a long, spurty thread of ‘ow’-ness. It’s no less than he deserves, he's behaved like a right shithouse.
Unusually, Smith resists the temptation to finish the book with a paragraph setting up a sequel, a crying shame as he has already established that the female is fertile and that there is a nuclear power station in the area. It’s not like Guy to pass up the opportunity for a book about radiation fuelled monster gators, so perhaps he thought the idea had run its course. Shame, as ‘Alligators’ is ace.