SPOILERS!!LEAVE!!SPOILERS!!YOU SHOULDN'T BE HERE ANYWAY!!SPOILERS!!SPOILERS!!LEAVE!!
Like the last novel I read—The Woods Are Dark—this is a sophomoric effort by its author, in this case being behind the most successful series start, The Rats. And, like Laymon's novel, The Fog suffers from a stumbling style, belabored in narrative structure and trifling characterization. Also, though certainly not Herbert's fault, the novel's remembrance is forever blurred by Carpenter's pulp horror longer-legged masterpiece, The Fog from 1980, where, if nothing else, Adrienne Barbeau gets a jiggling in the mist. Fortunately, James Herbert went on to write 23 novels read by 54 million readers, making him the largest selling horror author in England during his lifetime. That's quite an accomplishment, wouldn't you say Ramsey? Clive? Neil?
And—surprise!—The Fog is not a Horror novel(1), but Science Fiction—Crichton-style, Koontz-yish science fookin' fiction. If I wanted to be really insulting I'd call it a Thriller. Ouch.
Seriously, what's to recommend a 45-year old romp about some "mycoplasma"(p.198) which, among other adventures that make up the ensemble section of this read, influences a whole town of 150,000 people to walk into the sea and drown "like lemmings"(p.160)? For the visual, I'd say. Think of what the harbor must look like, "just crammed with floating bodies, the shores around . . . are littered with corpses"(p.170). There's plenty of other big-action events to pop your eyes out: a 747 Jumbo heads up a twin-towers-like crash, toppling a "building as though it were made of children's blocks"(p.181), or, the opening act's earthquake that swallows a village—and introduces our protag by saving a little girl—as "a heavy, yellowish cloud"—the dreaded fog itself—rises over a landscape "like the aftermath of a hydrogen bomb"(p.35).
But it's the little, more homey incidents that really plaster your image bank. Like when Reverend Hurdle, from the pulpit, "lifted his cassock, undid his trousers, took out his penis, and urinated over his congregation"(p.42). Then there's poor Farmer Ross, kicked then stomped into the ground by his dairy cows, and poacher Tom Abbot driven insane by the fog, chopping up the landed gentry with an axe. And students just don't take a cricket bat to their gym teacher, they tear off his tracksuit and start "grabbing and kicking at his testicles", then, now naked, he's tied to the wall bars and turned into "a carcass, a bloody, butcher's carcass"(p.92-3). A pigeon-lover has his eyes pecked out by the flock and falls off the roof to his death. A bank lackey locks his dictator-like boss in the vault, and a money-making wife gets her comeuppance on her drunk spendthrift husband.
While the fog travels around to various neighborhoods making everybody go insane in each of their particular, quirky walking nightmares, our lynchpin, John Holman gets immune early so he can save the girl, save England, save the planet from this drifting, deadly yellow peril. Other than some moral wrongs made right in the vignettes of people you'll never see again among the pages, I don't sense any fundamental, symbolic meaning attached to the fog. It's just, well, something to defeat(2) with lots of mayhem and carnage for a riveting but bounding read. Which would also explain the insertion of a rather exploitive fuck scene: "his penis rose quivering to meet her parted lips . . ."(p.249). . .
1) Now the movie The Fog, now that's horror! I mean, ghost lepers! Wow! Genre is always fluid, but my definition of "horror" is that it must contain an element of the supernatural. The fog is the Army's mistake; they apparently didn't have enough mustard/nerve deadly gases around, so they mixed an original batch. It kinda got away from them, I suspect. Yeah, I know, I know, how do you categorize things like Silence of the Lambs or Se7en if not horror? In current events, duders.
2) like English suppression of American colonist rebels didn't. Like England didn't with Nazi Germany, like Montgomery's Operation Market Garden plan didn't turn WWII. And like the Royal Family warmly embraced Diana. Didn't.