Book Review: The Fog, By James Herbert

James Herbert had some grand ideas. The concept for The Fog was brilliant. Think what would happen if the Blob went airborne and instead of eating everyone it came in contact with, it made them go mad. When I say mad, I mean batshit cray-cray, running around murdering and generally harming anyone they come in contact with. The Fog is something of a roller coaster ride with plenty of ups and downs. Some plot points worked well, while others seemed to drag until readers limp toward the finish. Ultimately, this book is a decent read and nothing more.

Alt. FogFrom the publisher: The peaceful life of a village in Wiltshire is suddenly shattered by a disaster which strikes without reason or explanation, leaving behind it a trail of misery and horror. A yawning, bottomless crack spreads through the earth, out of which creeps a fog that resembles no other. Whatever it is, it must be controlled; for wherever it goes it leaves behind a trail of disaster as hideous as the tragedy that marked its entry into the world. The fog, quite simple, drives people insane.

There’s something strange about that fog…

The Fog starts fairly fast with a giant fissure opening up on the main road of a small town. It swallows half the street, buildings and all. A man passing through, John Holman, our main character, is also swallowed, vehicle and all. As he’s trying to climb back up, some kind of yellowish fog rises from the depths. Moments later he’s trying to murder himself.

The concept behind this book is what draws readers in. Anyone who comes into contact with this mysterious fog is affected by it. There is no escape. Every time it crept around the countryside I imagined the Jaws theme. There is definitely a healthy creep factor.

The problem lies in Mr. Herbert trying to cover multiple angles of the fog’s exploits. He forces characters and their minor stories on readers, often at inopportune times, taking away from our main characters. At times it feels like reading several short stories within a major story arc. Some of the minor stories worked well. Some seemed out of place and too lengthy, like the lesbian scene, for example. There wasn’t much for readers to hold on to as they read about common folks reacting to the fog. I simply didn’t care about half of the stories.

Written in 1975, this book doesn’t look too fondly on women. Most of them are subservient and are around to make sure the men in their lives are looked after. To put it plainly, they’re weak. With the exception of a doctor, most of the women in this book are sex objects or food makers. It was a bit disappointing.

The Fog succeeds in planting seeds of fear in the back of reader’s minds. We know that if the fog is out travelling the countryside bad things are about to happen. Good people start doing unspeakable things to not only their loved ones, but themselves as well. Pets and livestock even get into the mix by attacking their owners. I think Mr. Herbert did an excellent job suggesting that even the best of us can be corrupted. And I think that was his message, that mankind is its own worst enemy.

What I liked:

  • The creep factor. Mr. Herbert does an excellent job making sure readers understand when the fog shows up bad things are about to happen. The only way to ensure you aren’t affected is to steer clear of the fog. Otherwise you’ll be running down the street naked with a sword, laughing all the way.
  • The concept. Uncontrollable madness after exposure to a fog, which is common in the UK, makes for a sometimes tense, and terrifying read. Evade the fog and you’ll be fine. Look up and notice it, and it’s too late. The scientific reasoning behind the fog was well planned as well. Great job by the author.
  • The quick start. Thank goodness this book didn’t take six years before the story got going. Mr. Herbert throws readers straight into the fire and never looks back.

What I didn’t like:

  • Too many meaningless characters. Readers learn about the effects of the fog through characters. Too often they are brand new characters who they have no connection with. At times it takes away from the story.
  • The pacing. Even though this book starts fast, the pace can be hit or miss as the author rambles at certain points making for a choppy read. The ending specifically is drawn out, in my opinion.
  • Weak female characters. I understand this book was written in the seventies, but many of the female characters left a bad taste in my mouth. They seemed to be there with the sole purpose of serving their male counterparts. Casey in particular needed a man in her life, like she couldn’t exist on her own. Many times women needed men to rescue them from certain perils. It seemed a bit ridiculous.
  • The gross out factor. Some of the short story pieces about the effects of the fog felt like their intent was to gross readers out. Some were sexual in nature, even involving young boys. I understand this book was written in a different era. That doesn’t excuse some of the content.
  • The constant head hopping. The POV switches on a dime in this book. One moment readers are in one character’s head, and the next another. It annoyed me.

Overall: I’m giving The Fog three out of five stars. It’s a decent read that quickly draws readers in. The concept is top-notch but the pacing can drag at points. I believe if Mr. Herbert could have focused more on a group of core characters, this book would have been much better. It would have made things feel more personal and readers would have formed a stronger connection with Holman and Casey. Instead we get snippets of the fog’s exploits shown through numerous throwaway character’s eyes. Some of the time it worked and some of the time it didn’t. Even though this book has its flaws, there is still plenty to like and would be a worthy addition to any horror lovers library. If you’re looking for an okay book that has some scares, The Fog won’t disappoint. But, ultimately, that’s all The Fog is, okay.

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4 comments

  1. I’m on the progress reading this and I agreed that there are a lot of characters making the main character out of the spotlight. But on the contrast it is a good story specially when the fog appears, it gives me an excitement and thrill.

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