Crawlers Paperback – 1 Dec 2003
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"With his electric intensity, elegant prose, and eye for details both sleazy and tender, Shirley is one of the most original voices in fiction today." -POPPY Z. BRITE
"Barely street-legal, Shirley's Bosch-like visions mark him out as perhaps the closest thing contemporary American fantasy has to a genuine 'outsider artist.' " -WILLIAM GIBSON, Author of "Neuromancer"
"John Shirley accomplishes things that most writers would not dare to attempt." -BRUCE STERLING, Author of "Schismatrix"
"John Shirley is an adventurer, returning from dark and troubled regions with visionary tales to tell. I heartily recommend a journey with John Shirley at your side." "-"CLIVE BARKER
"Shirley's latest begins horrifyingly--a top-secret government lab is destroyed by nasty, experimental nanotechnology--and just gets creepier, though more subtly so for quite a while, with just flashes of strange things in the woods and odd behavior by the involved populace. The comfortable town of Quiebra is in deadly danger, but the government, afraid of what will happen if the outside world finds out what has been let loose, is playing its cards close to its chest. For the Quiebrans, however, their predicament seems at first only a streak of light in the night sky and a potentially profitable salvage operation for Adair Leverton's father. Shirley's characters are believably flawed and variable, while his nasty little nanocreatures are, well, nasty (also singleminded about spreading). Meanwhile, his prose is often quite wonderful, even when he is describing something stomach-turningly icky. This portrayal of the dangers of secret experimentation with the diabolically dangerous is unnerving, not least because it is frighteningly convincing." "-Booklist"
"Crawlers has Shirley's trademark intensity, moral outrage and critical wit but also includes deep social and political allegories as well. What happens when humanity becomes too dependent upon technology? Are we sacrificing consciousness for mindless pleasures and superfluous comforts? What if sentient technology turns the tables and begins using us as its tool? Shirley's latest is as terrifying as it is thought-provoking." "-Bookpage"
"CRAWLERS is a horror story on a par with Dean Koontz, Stephen King and Clive Barker. It is a story of science gone amuck and what the consequences are when not enough safeguards are placed on a scientific black-ops experiment. The novel is fast paced and the action never lets up yet the author doesn't ignore character development. The people who populate the pages of this book are rugged individuals who try to fight the enemy and endear themselves to the audience in the process." -All Scifi.com
From the Inside Flap
In a secret government lab somewhere in Nevada, a young scientist cowers in darkness-waiting, listening, and calculating his chances of surviving the unspeakable carnage that has left him trapped and alone. Or almost alone.
Soon after, a covert military operation "cleanses" all traces of a top-secret project gone horrifically wrong.
Three years later, it begins again-when the quiet of a warm autumn night in a sleepy California town is shattered by a streak of light across the sky, the thunder of impact, and the unleashing of something insidious. Spreading, multiplying, and transforming everything in its path, this diabolical intelligence will not be denied until the townsfolk-and eventually, all living things-are conquered. Until they are all" crawling. . . .
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Dude, I grew up reading horror novels and adored horror flicks. It's been well over 15 years since something has had the power to goose my bumps. John Shirley's Crawlers is it. Fifty pages into the book and it scared me so bad I had to walk away and call a friend, so what if it was 3 am? At least my friend is still human... or so I pray. Our story begins in a super secret (aren't they all?) government lab where all that is good and wholesome has gone awry. Crawlers have taken over the lab and are harvesting the remaining living scientists for *scrap* body parts. Their goal is complete assimilation. Yup, the Borg on crack,
True to form the government annihilates the lab in an effort to cover up the failed experiment. Unfortunately for the small Californian town of Quiebra, things suddenly don't seem quite so normal. It appears the mighty establishment didn't do to good of a job. People are acting oddly and in some cases disappearing. The adults of the town are being assimilated one by one and it's up to the children of the town and a few rag-tag straggler adults to discover what is going on in time to stop the travesty that is brewing. Even if they do succeed the authorities don't plan to leave any survivors. All hail civilization!
Through out the entire novel the message most prevalent is to think for yourself. Don't let anyone, most especially those in charge, think for you. All else leads to the unthinkable.
Crawlers is an excellent novel. Despite the fact that it scared me away for at least an hour I couldn't stay away. This to me means John Shirley is a force to be reckoned with. :leaves behind a Faery Queen rating before jumping into bed and hiding under the covers:
I don't read the backs of books b4 I read the books. The only thing I knew about CRAWLERS going-in was that it was about nanotechnology run amok. It wasn't until area - I mean page 51 that I realized and accepted that yes, this is a horror story. A John Shirley horror story. And I was scared.
CRAWLERS uses the Invasion of the Body Snatchers mold to examine issues of nature vs technology, young vs old, chaos vs order, paranoia vs they're-really-after-you, & kinship vs survival.
The nano-machines are countless microscopic Frankensteins set loose in suburban San Francisco through blunders by the U.S. government. The "breakouts" attempt to assimilate every animal & person in the town of Quiebra in order to amass a force with which to build & deploy an instrument of global dissemination.
But first they must learn. And experiment. They enhance living bodies with mechanical & electronic parts. They disassemble & reassemble bodies, trying combinations of parts & species, seeking efficiency & strength of form, all the while communicating with a central "brain" through which all successes & failures are processed, & from which directives are taken.
One scheme of efficiency is to first take over the bodies & minds of people pre-disposed to being easily influenced. Most of those people are the adults in town. It is explained that the pre-disposition is not genetic or biological at all but a mind-set... This suggests that the volatility of the youthful mind has a strength beyond the wisdom (or apathy?) of maturity. The adults who don't easily succumb are inquisitive, creative, & young at heart - or forewarned of the danger. The fate of life on Earth finally rests in the hands of half a dozen adults & a couple hundred children & teens.
The promises of order, vitality, comfort & longevity through assimilation by the breakouts is shunned. Instinctively the pain & conflict of life-as-we-know-it is chosen over world peace. War, decay, death, & differences of opinion all contribute to define humanity, not to destroy it.
And, it's funny, that in John Shirley's CRAWLERS, inexplicably, cats, of all the animals out there, also hold these notions as true.
CRAWLERS is John Shirley's 1st true sci-fi/horror hybrid novel. Yes, it scared me because - like all good "hard" sci-fi - this could happen. And I'd hope that I would be one of the adults that would resist it. I hope I never become a crawler...
But there is an underlying theme throughout the book that far transcends the simple scary story. Shirley states it clearly towards the end of the book when he says that "Water is good for you, but too much can kill you. How do we know when we've had too much technology?" This idea is presented over and over again: when the kids are walking through their neighborhood at night and can see in their neighbors' windows and everyone is watching TV... When the story is told of people at a museum with video cameras viewing art through a lens... When over and over the characters are presented in front of their TV's, computers, phones - eerily just like us.
One of the best parts of the whole book is a simple dinner scene with a family talking about the kids' day at school: "Bert thought, They're so caught up in technology. Computers, MP3s, CD burners, downloading whole movies, laptops, augmenting their own videogame platforms with chips ordered on-line, doing most of their homework research on-line, spending hours in chat rooms and instant messaging - he'd heard kids talk about all that and more. He wanted to quote Thoreau. 'We are conscious of an animal in us, which awakens in proportion as our higher nature slumbers. It is reptile and sensual, and perhaps cannot be wholly expelled.' He wanted to ask them when they'd last looked beyond the digital landscape; when they'd really opened up to the sky and the sea and the forests, and to one another - and ask if it were possible that their obsession with the technology of distraction was deafening them to the message of God's creation. But Bert kept quiet. He kept his mouth shut because he knew he'd just come off as pompous, and because teenagers justly despised self-righteous lecturers. Too, teenagers knew that if they were addicted to all these things, it was because they'd been conditioned to them by adults who were just as bad; who reduced them to a consumer demographic. So Bert just smiled and nodded and said they did well to hone their skills."
CRAWLERS is basically a "Body Snatchers" with a cruel metallic twist. These nanotechnological horrors are using human bodies to regenerate into killing machines and threaten to take over the world. The imagery Shirley conveys in these transmutations is spellbinding, and would work very well cinematically. There are some tightly suspenseful scenes, and some good dialogue between the teens and their adult counterparts.
A good novel, nothing highly original, but worth a read.
The All of Us and its spawn are certainly disturbing ("Certainly!") and Shirley culls totally believable and likeable young characters from his knowledge of modern teen culture; I actually had to wake myself up early and finish the book because I was getting too worried about what was going to happen to them.
Plus, CRAWLERS has enough off-the-hook mayhem going on, as things start getting out of hand, to take loyal readers back to wild early Shirley books like IN DARKNESS WAITING (imagine a cyperpunk version of that one, and you've pretty much got the picture).