Review Index

By SHAUN HUTSON (Leisure; 1983)

Now hereís a premise: A severely deformed, retarded hospital orderly buries several aborted fetuses in a field, where an electrical storm causes them to spring to life...and develop an insatiable appetite for human flesh! 

      If youíre a gorehound then eighties-era Shaun Hutson--an insanely prolific, outspoken English novelist--is among the small circle of must-read authors.  Most (if not all) of his work is trash, but Hutsonís novels are usually always eminently readable--not to mention leering, tasteless and gory as fuck!  He appears to have softened somewhat in recent years, but back in the day Hutsonís work was about as extreme as horror fiction got.  Hutson freak-outs like SLUGS, BREEDING GROUND, SHADOWS and EREBUS were and remain ground-breaking exercises in splatterific excess.

      SPAWN, which opens with a young boy gleefully burning insects to death, is, believe it or not, fairly restrained compared with Hutsonís other novels of the time.  The complex narrative is developed with a degree of care unusual for this author, and was voluminously researched (apparently the bookís details of the disposal of aborted fetuses via incineration is precisely how such things are actually done in the UK). 

      But Shaun Hutson is Shaun Hutson, and he includes many episodes of minutely described nastiness.  The insect-torching boy also incinerates his baby brother in the winsome prologue, and, as youíve probably guessed, grows into the fetus-hoarding hospital orderly who sets things in motion.  Thereís also a convicted killer loose in the countryside where the orderly happens to reside.  And then there are the fetuses, which grow at alarming rates by feasting on human blood and viscera, and attain telepathic powers in the bargain.

      Donít expect much in the way of profundity or refinement.  Comparatively restrained this book may be, but itís still every bit as lurid and trashy as youíd expect.  The premise might suggest some kind of statement, pro or con, about abortion, but social relevance was never a concern of Hutsonís.  What he is concerned with is wet, meaty horror, something this novel provides in abundance.