on 15 September 2003
Yet another brilliantly written book by Herbert. Once again his focus is on the future mankind may bring upon itself by it's blatant disregard for the world we live in. After thousands of years of mankind's abuse of mother earth, she finally rebells. Yet even mother earth is reluctant to rid itself of it's torturers completely; there are a selected few who are shown the signs and the way mankind and mother earth can live in harmony. But will the powers that be take any notice of these lone voices or will they continue to avoid the obvious signs that something is badly wrong.
The book might as well have been glued to my fingers as I couldn't put it down!
A must read for all Herbert followers.
Looking at the other reviews of this novel, I feel rather alone in not really enjoying it. I've read a lot of Herbert's work and feel that this is by far his weakest offering. Herbert has proved that he is a master of suspense and has an outstanding ability to create a truly dark and creepy atmosphere. Yet here Herbert seems to have by-passed such talents and put together a novel that seems to float through a thread bare plot that never really seems to develop itself. The ending just wanders into place, leaving the reader (well me anyway) with a sense of dissatisfaction. With such experience and exceptional talent, one would have thought that Herbert would have gripped the reader in some way with this novel, but I felt bored as I battled through the mundane novel chapter after chapter.
Obviously, this is only my opinion on the book and others have thought something completely different (see below), but if you are new to Herbert's work, I would strongly recommend The Rats, Lair, The Fog, The Survivor, Sepulchre and '48. All are outstanding pieces of imaginative work.
on 22 April 2002
After reading this book you will panic! The events, while perhaps fanciful, are definitely some of the most graphically described and richly portrayed of any from books of a similar ilk. So much so, that you can easily envisage elements of this story being fact rather than fiction. The characters' descriptions are great - each one is really brought to life, even those who appear for mere moments; and I can guarantee you will visualise people you know as some of them! (Particularly the lead character's work colleagues!!) The plot unfolds gently and intriguingly throughout and the central story is evenly broken up to a manageable pace by some excellent sideline events that come together as one dramatic and enjoyable whole.
There are no clumsy misplaced speed-ups - the pace is only altered when the writer emphasises the dramatic tension, which is so well done that your blood will chill! And you are thrown into the action so there is no "when will it get to a good bit?" feeling.
James Herbert captures the imagination and throws you into a world chaotic, savage, but strikingly real, leaving you feeling very much in-the-moment, the savagery only serving to increase the beauty once you know why it is that the events are happening.
The style is excellent, the descriptive writing when introducing new characters and locations is second to none, and the moments of tension will grasp you leaving your heart racing.
Though regarded as horror, this book is much, much more. It does have genuinely mouth-drying moments, but there is also an under current of love, hope and heroism - though none of which are in over-kill. The cleverly thought up fictional side is well balanced with enough perfect imagery and factual base to invoke dread and more than a little concern for the world around you, but above all it will complete capture you - "Portent" is a thrilling and enthralling, very, very clever book.
on 12 August 2012
It isn`t long since I read ONCE..., Herberts recent fairy book, and I quite liked it. Now, I`ve jumped into his back catalogue and read PORTENT, an apocalyptic horror story, where the weather is the main antagonist.
All across the world the weather is going crazy; there are hurricanes and cyclones, huge tsunami, unseasonable droughts and snowstorms; volcanoes too are erupting everywhere and earthquakes rock the planet. Before each of these disasters unfolds, strange earth-lights, portents, are seen, but few see the portents and live.
James Rivers is a climatologist who sees a portent while in a plane. He hits bad weather and the plane crashes. Most of his crew die, but he survives, although with a very painful leg injury. During his convalescence from work, he gets involved with Hugo Poggs, an old eccentric who is clinging to Lovelock`s ideas of Gaia, a living mother Earth. Within Poggs` family are two young children who have some kind of pyschic ability, and they link up with an old hermit in Scotland who holds the key to what is happening with the climate. Also, they are antagonised in their dreams by Mama Pitie, a huge grotesque black woman from New Orleans. Born with the power to heal, Mama Pitie is the matriarch of a religious cult, but behind closed doors she enjoys killing and necrophillia; Mama Pitie senses that the children are somehow the key to the weather problem, and, perhaps unreasonably, sets off for England to kill them. Meanwhile, the weather gets worse; geysers erupt all over the world, and hurricanes descend to make a truly stormy atmosphere.
I liked PORTENT. It is good to read a book where the weather is the bad guy, and Herbert describes its ferocity very well. The horror author has always had a penchant for vignettes, setting up a character, describing them intimately, making them real, and then killing them off in some terrible violent fashion. These vignettes are very much in evidence here, but they are well written, and help to add flavour to the idea that this is a worldwide problem. My only slight gripe is with the ending; a devastasting global catastrophe is sorted out by a few fisticuffs and a couple of shotguns. I would have liked, perhaps, an epilogue, too, telling of what happenned to the planet and the characters afterwards. After a good build-up it all just kind of falls a bit flat.
But never mind, PORTENT is another enjoyable novel from reliable Herbert, and has an interesting premise behind it. It is the kind of horror novel that only a weather-obsesed Englishman could write, but that anyone can enjoy. I will be reading more of Herbert`s books soon, and I especially want to re-read his RATS trilogy.
on 3 January 2017
This book is dated in places for example talking about the French Franc Tec bot in some ways it also tells of tropical illnesses becoming more wide spread and global warming. Whilst not the fastest paced book in the world it is a favourite of mine..
I do like James Herbert and his death has left a gap in this British horror market that has yet to be filled (in my humble opinion).
His work is well thought out and has a broad range of cultures, my only bug bear is the women characters, they seem a bit woolly unless they are evil in which case all bets are off!
on 5 November 2003
An outstanding book. A look into a very possible future -- with a twist. The world is undergoing a change - and this could be for the good or for the bad. As usual we have the James Herbert reluctant hero.
A book you can't put down. One I have read time and again and one that is probably my favourite from my James Herbert collection.
By No means a disappointment - OUTSTANDING
on 11 February 2009
No, Chris Hall, you are not alone in giving this two stars. This novel was originally published in 1992 and, to me, reads like it. Had I read it at the time I might have found it better than I did but, having read many other books containing an end of the world as we know it scenario, it felt decidedly lame. Which is a great shame as James Herbert is very good at making the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Not all the time but this book neither worried nor enthralled me. There is very little sense of genuine atmosphere, or dread, here and I didn't care enough about the characters to be concerned about what may eventually happen to them.
The story is basically very simple. A climatologist suffers an unusual accident, the world is in the grip of major natural disasters, there are two unusual children who can help the world and a nasty Louisianian priestess who wishes them ill. Even the descriptions of the natural disasters are lacklustre. No, I wouldn't particularly want to be caught in an earthquake in London but he doesn't even manage to make that sound particularly horrible. For a writer who has given such graphic descriptions of rats eating babies, dogs crawling along corridors on the stumps of their legs (see - I remember all of those very well and I no longer even have the books) he does a very poor job here.
It is certainly not a horror story. I read "The Rats", "The Dark" and "The Fog" at an impressionable age and can recall even now how unnerved they made me feel then. Indeed, I can still remember a great many of the details, as written above. I will struggle to remember anything much about this and certainly won't be having any sleepless nights. At least I'm not in a total minority. I finished it but only because I try to make a point of finishing books, just to see how it pans out. Had I lost the book in the middle of reading it it wouldn't have bothered me.
on 18 October 2016
I went so long between my last James Herbert book and this one that I had forgotten how much I loved his work.
To be honest, I should probably give my mother a massive thank you for that. Were it not for the fact that I harassed her for some of her older books she probably never would have found this little gem hidden away and it would have taken me even longer to get around to another Herbert book. In fact, I should probably go and pick up some more before I forget again.
Alas, I am running off at a tangent.
As you would expect with Herbert this is a beautifully crafted piece. If you have never picked up a James Herbert book before I suggest you do so, if only to understand how accessible yet wonderful his writing is. He is the kind of author capable of luring you in with no trouble at all, leaving you trapped in his net until you’re able to proclaim yourself finished with the book – and even then you will only leave your entrapment if you’re promised something more to read.
The book is wonderful, though, ergo you should be happy to disappear into it without any kind of foul play. Through great characters and a wonderful story we’re told to really sit and think about what we’re doing to the world at large. Without sounding like he is lecturing us, Herbert really opens our eyes to things that a large number of people would much rather ignore. Even if you are someone who wants to ignore the message you cannot deny the fact that Herbert has managed to craft a wonderful story.
Just pick up a James Herbert book, damn it.
Following two of the best novels he’d ever written in Haunted and Creed, Portent is an unfortunate misfire from James Herbert. On one hand Herbert’s attempt to depict a world-wide apocalypse is ambitious, but stylistically Portent is a step back to the sort of ‘un-natural disaster’ form he’d used in the likes of the Rats trilogy, The Fog and The Dark, where the lead characters story is intercut with numerous short scenes of disaster-movie-style mayhem featuring new characters who are introduced only to die spectacularly. Where previously this format had led to some tense drama however, here Portent falls oddly flat, with the sheer scale of the destruction sweeping across the Earth so enormous that it’s difficult to actually care about anyone caught up in it – this is death on a widescreen cinematic scale, and while that might make for exciting viewing in a special effects heavy Hollywood disaster movie, it doesn’t quite work in prose form.
Also the story of ‘hero’ James Rivers is very thin – he spends most of the novel being slowly convinced of the reasons behind the disasters sweeping the Earth, before flying off to Scotland to have the plot explained to him by some wise old hermit on a hill. Throughout there is no chance of anyone actually being able to avert the disasters, so the characters just sort of passively drift through the novel (at one point Herbert has Rivers frantically attempting to tell the authorities of the explanations he’s discovered for what’s happening, but as they cant actually do anything about it it seems a rather pointless exercise). The closest the novel gets to some actual drama is when Rivers has to protect some psychic twins – the first of a new post-apocalyptic generation - from an opposing force, but it’s too little, too late.
James Herbert obviously had his heart in the right place when writing Portent, as with it’s story of a vengeful ‘Mother Earth’ this is Herbert’s big environmental message book, but unfortunately it fails to engage the reader as a piece of dramatic storytelling. Probably his least enjoyable novel, Portent is for Herbert completists only.
on 7 March 2001
Portent has to be the best James Herbert novel that I've read to date. The characters and events are so well described that you begin to fell like one of the characters. James Herbert has given us an insight as to what it must be like to experience the natural disasters experienced by some many other countries in the world. The book allows you to let your imagination run riot and conjour up your own thoughts and fears about what would happen if disaster really did strike Great Britain. A must for anyone to read who has imagination and wants to loose themselves in the book from start to finish.