Ben is on a school trip. So is Jasmine. What they don't know is that not everybody in the theatre is there to watch the play and, in fact, they'll never get to see it ...There is panic at the Barbican when the fire alarms start wailing, but the strangely silent theatre staff, trap them inside the building rather than letting them out to safety. Ben, Jasmine and their classmates soon discover that there's no fire - what's happening is much weirder, and much scarier. Strange spider-like creatures swarm through the building attacking people and turning them into vicious killers, and the kids have to run for their lives. But barricaded in an office, with these creatures waiting outside for them, the children realise they're stuck. Will they ever get out? And, more importantly can they trust each other?
Fact One: Sam Enthoven is a good writer.
Fact Two: Sam Enthoven is a deeply weird and disturbed person.
Fact Three: We love him for it.
Who else could possibly conceive a nightmare so bloody awful and real that I still feel a bit twitchy between my shoulder blades when I think about Crawlers, Sam’s newest offering to his adoring fans.
If you’re someone easily frightened then trust me when I hand you this warning: WALK AWAY, DO NOT READ THIS FOR FEAR OF NIGHTMARES.
But if you’re a fan of critters that go bump in the night, things that creep and crawl, then read on!
I find with Sam’s writing that it’s all very real, as you can tell from my shoutiness above. When I realised where the setting was going to be – The Barbican, one of London’s ugliest buildings – I had to laugh because I’ve attended a show there myself and I know what a strange and ugly place it is, so I could sympathise with the characters for being forced to go there to attend a theatre production.
Crawlers is written from three perspectives: firstly, we meet the Queen who has been held captive by a very old London company for their own nefarious purposes. She’s a very intelligent creepy being who has been biding her time, waiting for someone to give her the chance to show off her skills for infiltration and deviousness.
Then we meet Ben and Jasmine respectively. Ben attends Walsingham School for Boys, an exclusive private school but Ben’s not quite comfortable there. He’s into movies and superheroes and is a bit of a dreamer. Jasmine on the other hand is from Swatham Academy for Girls and it’s not quite as nice. Jasmine’s intelligent and good with maths and science – she works hard on her grades because she wants to make something of herself. This has her appear a bit aloof from others and she’s ridiculed for it.
When chaos erupts at The Barbican, with the release of the crawlers (small insect crittery things that attach themselves to the back of the neck of their human hosts) Ben and Jasmine (who’ve merely seen one another in passing) manage to keep their calm and get their respective school mates to the relative safety of the security room.
Mix a group of upper-class boys, a handful of girls who are out looking for trouble, in a small confined space, dash in some critters intent on taking over the human population who share a hive-mind, and watch what happens.
It’s tense and intelligent. A good exploration of the various strengths and weaknesses characters display in a bad situation. Usual actioners have very little time for character development but in Crawlers Mr. E has managed to convey a good sense of who his characters are and what they’re about. You can see their progression throughout the novel and it’s gratifying to see how one of the weaker boys, stands up and fights not just for himself but for everyone else and how that affects him and those around him. Clever writing indeed.
The novel takes place from 6pm to just before midnight on the same day. A lot happens. It’s breathtaking and scary and it freaked me out quite a bit. It’s also cinematic and you can tell that the author’s had a great time plumbing the depths of his own imagination on how to make tense situations even more tense and over the top.
The ending is wow and the finale is ... waitaminute, did I just feel something crawl up my leg!?
A huge thank you to Liz de Jager from My Favourite Books for this fantastic review. As I said recently, if you haven't discovered Liz's blog yet then you really should head on over there as she is also a big fan of YA and children's books, many of which are boy friendly. I read Crawlers myself last week and I feel that Liz's review really does it justice; it is a fantastic horror story with a wonderfully grotesque cover (the kids at school were totally grossed out by it). Crawlers is due to be published by Corgi on 1st April 2010. Sam Enthoven has kindly offered to take part in an interview for this blog so watch this space - maybe we will find out a little more about his twisted imagination. If you have any questions you would like me to ask him then please leave them as comments by 29th January.