by Simon Clark
it seems as if this quasi-young adult, sorta post-apocalyptic, kinda zombie-horror, new-fangled Lord of the Flies type novel published in 1995 is somewhat of a cult classic. i think it completely deserves that status and wish it were even more well-known. i have rarely seen it referenced, but given how it straddles different sorts of subgenres, i suppose that is understandable. still, it deserves more attention. at the very least, if you are a fan of any of those subgenres i mentioned, this should be considered as particularly interesting reading material.
one day in April, 17-year old Nick Aten ("yeah, it rhymes with Satan") learns to his extreme surprise and displeasure that everyone age 20 and over has had their mind switched over to something more sinister, more herd-like. in essence, adults have become bloodthirsty, zombie-like beings with minimal intelligence and whose main priority appears to be to capture and quickly, brutally, horribly kill their own children. lesser priorities for these transformed adults is the killing of any other children that may cross their path and the building of odd geometric patterns that they form out of their children's belongings, their children's bodies, and their own dying bodies as well. but above all, their main mission remains to kill their own kids - to the point of tracking them down and hunting them with some kind of uncanny homing instinct.
Nick starts out in a kind of state of shock (rather understandable) but quickly learns to survive, picking up and protecting a few fellow kids on the way, including the obligatory love interest. he is an amiable and amusingly laddish protagonist: recently graduated, with some skills in the fixing of cars, but whose main priorities in life are hanging out, drinking lots of beer, contemplating girls, and planning further engagements with his ongoing rival Tug Slatter within their suburb of Doncaster. the first quarter of the book details Nick & company's sometimes panicky, sometimes steady-handed attempts to drive around and figure things out. the rest of the novel becomes a study in contrasting ways to build communities, as Nick finds himself an increasingly important part of several different kid communes, each of which has reacted to the global disaster in different ways.
the writing is plain, unadorned, at times crude. Clark's greatest skill may be in simply making this all seem real - i did not have to carefully suspend disbelief to enjoy it. despite the atrocities being committed and the horrible ways that kids die, this is not the kind of novel that goes into graphic detail about those kinds of things - visceral, splattery horror elements are rather slight; brief descriptions are the norm. sadistic and rape-y behavior from some particularly bad kids are noted and reacted against by the young heroes, but they are not dwelt upon by the author in a leering way. mainly Blood Crazy is a fast-paced page-turner, one of those books that you may find yourself skipping ahead a bit to see if any characters die or if anything especially terrible will happen next, if you are the sort of reader who worries about that kind of thing (i certainly am).
the explanation of why this is all happened to the adults is, for me, what lifts this novel into 4-star material. there is a rather mind-blowing rationale for it all, one that includes the idea that God is simply a projection of our unconscious, in some ways a Jungian symbol that we are all genetically predisposed to believe in. i did not expect to read that in this book! the explanation/revelation occurs during an info-dump that is over 25 pages long. from reviews i've read, this sequence is intolerable to many readers. Clark does try to tart up the dryness of this passage by having it delivered during a sexy massage ("Now turn over, I'll do your front"..."You know I'm getting as much pleasure from this as you are") by a sweet young lady who had just spent the previous few days drugging up our hero and pretty much raping him night after night (upon learning this, Nick is at first irritated but then basically shrugs it off - he has bigger things to worry about). this sequence was completely absorbing. so was the entire book.