Maggots – Edward Jarvis
Arrow – 1986
Imagine that you’re on holidays somewhere far away from where you live. The locals speak the same language as you in this place, but you are a tourist here and know nothing about local events and politics. You’re bored, so you turn on the TV, but the only thing on is a satirical sketch show about current events in the town you’re staying in. Not only are you unfamiliar with the targets of the satire, but the brand of humour is bizarre and doesn’t make you laugh.
Pretty annoying right? I mean, you might watch out of curiousity for a few minutes, but you’ll probably turn it off pretty quickly and have a wank instead.
Now imagine the exact same scenario, but with every sketch in the show ending with the characters being attacked and devoured by a swarm of bloodthirsty maggots.
That would be the television equivalent of this book.
I have read many awful horror novels, but Edward Jarvis’s Maggots was shockingly bad. I was genuinely surprised at how something so awful could get published. Sometimes you read a book and decide quickly that the story is bad or the writing is poor, but you can usually tell what the writer is going for, even if they never get there. Maggots is different. It’s such a mess that I honestly don’t know what Edward Jarvis was trying to do with it.
The story is very stupid. Maggots start coming out of the ground and eating people. Some of the maggots are regular size, some of them are bigger than dogs, some are so small that they form a fine mist in the air, and at least one is bigger than a bus. There’s a guy who likes exploring caves who sees some. He has some dealings with an American politician who is running for president. There’s also a teacher who uses karate to beat up his students. The maggot problem gets worse and worse. Maggots invade a sports stadium. A maggot volcano erupts. The maggots come because people use oil. People start eating the maggots. Other people start maggot hunting groups. The world’s leading politicians agree to try to kill the maggots by playing loud noise at them through a speaker.
Maybe the story is more coherent than that, but I doubt it. In truth, I wasn’t able to give this book a thorough reading. I skimmed large chunks after the first 50 pages. The writing here is utterly tortuous. It goes between lengthy scientific descriptions of the Earth’s crust to boring political satire. I assume it’s satire of British politics of the mid 1980s, but it was totally over my head. When you’re telling a story, there’s certain unexciting parts that have to be included for the sake of coherency, but Jarvis takes these bits and draws them out as much as possible. When I buy a book with a maggoty face on the cover, I want maggoty faces to take up a good chunk of the story. There are some nasty bits in here, but they take up maybe 8 or 9 pages of the total 235.
The book features characters from all over the world, and dis bleddy awtaw cawnt bleddy ‘elp wroyten ow deh accence phawneticlay. It’s fucking unbearable. I know that there’s a market for “so bad it’s good” horror out there, but this isn’t good at all. This is “so bad it’s actually really awful and difficult to read” horror. I wanted to give up at so many points, but I struggled through.
Honestly, this book reads like it was written by an alien or a computer or something that has a basic understanding of what a story should contain but absolutely no understanding of why people like stories. As I read through it, I actually wondered if Edward Jarvis wasn’t some genius post modernist who had created this book as a statement on… something I don’t understand. Maggots is actually so radically awful, that it’s difficult to believe that its author was simply incompetent.
Fortunately for everyone, this book is very hard to find. Copies sell for insane amounts considering how terrible it is. This is obviously due to the cover. Scroll up there and look at it again. A festering, maggot-eaten head. Quality.