There’s nothing particularly funny about the worms in Simon Ian Childer’s novel. They’re nasty and icky things that look like “a thick thread of dark jelly loosely packed within a transparent membrane.”
But when the worms launch a unified strike on the citizenry of London (chapter six), the author starts having a little bit of fun. Tendrils come up through the toilet to suck on sphincters. They attach themselves to boobs and they drill into eyeballs. In fact, these subterranean creatures inevitably find a way to attack their victims in the most indecorous manner.
It all starts when a geology team looking for a suitable place to dump nuclear waste punctures a prehistoric cocoon 500 feet below the surface. Unknowingly they release a dangerous alien organism of monstrous dimensions under London.
The worms begin their “harvest of humanity” right away. Ninety-three people (and a few cows) are killed the first night. After being dormant for 65 million years, the tendrils are hungry. Thankfully (for them) London contains a scrumptious and plentiful food supply.
Throughout the book, the creatures are repeatedly called worms. But eventually, Dr. Clive Thomas, his lab assistant and a newspaper reporter discover the truth. The worms aren’t worms at all. They’re part of one vast organism. Says the author at the end of the book: “It was a huge, repulsive jellyfish. The bulbous, spongy mass was mounted on a thick stalk from which countless tendrils protruded. Rising 400 feet above Regent Street, it looked like a gigantic phallus.”
As it turns out, the monster is a parasite from outer space, which infects planets, feeds off animal life, then goes into hibernation while it waits for new species to evolve and restock the planet. Then it wakes up. “It would explain why there are several inexplicable periods of mass extinction in our fossil records,” muses one scientist.
To destroy the monster, Dr. Thomas and a small team of solders venture forth armed with machetes, axes, sub-machine guns, flamethrowers and one chainsaw (and a dose of “Chemical X”). The giant jellyfish is destroyed, but not without a few complications.
But Londoners shouldn’t rest easy just yet. Dr. Thomas and his crew suspect there might be more Jellyfish monsters. Buried deep underground. Asleep, like this one was, but waiting for an alarm call. “It stands to reason, doesn’t it? That there’d be more than just one of them,” says a chatty medic on the last page. “I suppose so,” sighs Thomas.
[Tendrils / By Simon Ian Childer / First Printing: January 1986 / ISBN: 9780586064375]