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PORTENT by James Herbert


by James Herbert

Pub Date: July 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-06-105211-6
Publisher: HarperCollins

 Herbert's 18th horror novel works toward another of his familiar apocalyptic climaxes (The Ghosts of Sleath, 1995, etc.) but features perhaps his finest writing. British climatologist James Rivers flies into the blissfully calm eye of a huge hurricane over the Gulf of Mexico and sees a strange ball of light hanging outside his plane just before he crashes. Recovering back home, Rivers is invited by the eccentric Hugo Poggs to his country estate, where Poggs shares the results of his research into the vast natural disturbances suddenly sweeping the world. Is Mother Earth shrugging man off the planet because of what he's done to her? Rivers falls in with Hugo's widowed daughter-in-law Diane, who has adopted Romanian gypsy twins, Eva and Josh--children who are seemingly telepathic, given to visions and to alarming messages about the near future. Earth tremors shake London, tidal waves wipe out Grenada and Oahu, huge forest fires spring up in Brazil, Australia's Great Barrier Reef is destroyed, cyclones sweep the Great Plains, undersea volcanoes erupt, the San Andreas Fault splits, all heralded by portentous balls of light. Rivers, a troubled skeptic, keeps stumbling across evidence indicating that these lights are neither accidental nor mere by- products of natural phenomena. When the twins tell him that he is part of the Dream Man, a benign figure in their visions, Diane, Rivers, and the twins set off to Scotland's lochs in search of another such Dream Man. Through him, Rivers finds that these horrors portending the Last Days actually express man's inner nature writ large upon Earth, the Great Mother. To survive, man must change. This may be Herbert's best novel, its prose keen, characters crisp, and pace terrific, though the world-shattering end is disappointly unsurprising and generic.