Those wascally wabbits are at it again, attacking and devouring people like carrots in the English countryside. Who would’ve thought these furry herbivores were so fond of meat?
Following the tried and true “when animals attack” formula laid down by James Herbert in his seminal debut novel The Rats, The Folly introduces characters and their foibles before letting the rabbits loose on them. There’s the obligatory drunk, an old couple, a young couple making out in the woods, you get the drift, you’ve known the ins and outs of the style since The Rats hit the streets running back in 1974.
Guy the journalist is the protagonist here, with a convoluted back story featuring an American heiress, his botched marriage to the said heiress and a revenge plot against the local lord Sir Mark involving his second wife Anne who is now Guy’s secret lover. Also Guy’s parents were eaten by the rabbits, so business as usual in good old Hampshire. Centering around a folly, a type of useless structure English lords and ladies used to erect in their gardens back in the day simply because they had the money to do so, the novel teases black magic and hereditary madness on the first page or two, only to ditch it all in favour of a hidden lab and a crazy scientist in the tradition of Dr. Moreau.
As expected, the victims of the rabbits share the reader’s disbelief at what is about to happen, even if the writer insists on the rabbits being from hell and at least hideously deformed. Some of the jokes do land with aplomb, such as the one about a would-be victim being a wannabe Playboy “bunny girl”. Unfortunately, in the end, the novel is a very serious affair and not, say, a full-on parody of The Rats. As an honest, purposefully exaggerated send-up of Herbert’s classic the result might’ve been hilarious. The Folly, however, is only tedious.
There’re no original ideas here, just bad science and piss poor plotting, which mercifully come to an end at slim 160 pages. The saving grace here is that the novel isn’t all that terribly written, even when the novel reaches its idiotic crescendo. Perhaps they still had copy editors in merry old England of 1978?