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Well, I'll be avoiding beaches from now on. And if Stephen King's works were not enough to make property values in Maine drop like an elephant on a hang glider, CLICKERS certainly did nothing to turn that trend around.
In his acknowledgments, J.F. Gonzalez (former editor of Phantasm and Iniquities magazines) mentions the interest he and his co-writer, the late Mark Williams (artist, including work on the films ALIENS and THE FLY), shared in grade B movies from the 1950's, and how those movies influenced the writing of this novel.
Had I not read that in the acknowledgments, it probably would have been easy to guess.
Like many of those movies, we start with a small town (in this case, Phillipsport, Maine). We have the loner hero arriving just in time for the chaos (in this case horror novelist Rick Sychek). We have a love interest waiting for him (the - of course - sensuous Janice Harrelson). And finally, we have the monsters (which I'll get to in a moment) and the hero's human nemesis, the Sheriff Roy Conklin, an inept, overbearing, bigoted asshole.
The good news is that they don't follow the B-movie formula 100%, giving the reader an enjoyable story without the irritation of constant predicitability. Unfortunately, to give you the divergences from that path would be to spoil parts of the story, so I'll move on.
The book takes its title from the name Sycheck gives to the initial threat to the town, a swarm of crab-like creatures that suddenly comes ashore to eat and breed. They are somewhat larger than typical crabs, perhaps the size of a small dog, and they have scorpion tails that inject a very strong acid with the sting. The scenes in which they make their appearances are neat and creepy, and though they are somewhat easy to handle individually, their tendency to attack in swarms and their nasty stingers more than make up for it in threat level.
As Rick and a local doctor begin to put two and two together (after he is, of course, arrested by said inept sheriff), it dawns on them the Clickers are not coming out of the ocean to breed, they are running from something. Enter the Dark Ones (dubbed so by Sychek after he acknowledges their resemblance to Lovecraft's Deep Ones), a humanoid species that makes appetizers of the Clickers and main courses of anyone they manage to get their claws on.
CLICKERS is not spectacular, but well-written and engaging. I found the characters easily likeable, and, as I'm sure was the intention, I hated the sheriff. Despite a handful of stereotype, the characters are fleshed out very well. There is some tense action, marred only once or twice by a hokey incident, and we have a good mix of the chill factor with the Clickers and the abject terror of the Dark Ones.
Something else that I always find enjoyable is pop culture references. I've talked to several people that are sick of seeing this sort of thing in books, but as the writers laid out the main character's interests in music and comics (including the work of another character, Jack "the Ripper" Ripley, an artist-turned-comic-shop-owner), I was with them all the way. Love or hate the bands and titles discussed, I think it genuinely serves to immerse the reader in the story.
Overall CLICKERS is a quick, easy read and not a bad addition to the bookshelf, especially considering DarkTales' slick format.
I give it three BookWyrms.
copyright 2001 E.C.McMullen Jr.