Ramsey Campbell's seventh novel takes place in the fictional town of Moonwell, a remote town in the Peaks District of England where traces of ancient paganism still survive. Chiefly among these is the "dressing of the cave" where villagers decorate a cave with flowers on the longest day of the year. Although the origins of the ancient custom are not exactly known, it is said to be a pagan ritual that dates back to the druids.
Then one year, an evangelist named Godwin Mann arrives in Moonwell. Within a few weeks he has brought nearly the entire town under his spell. He convinces the town to end this tradition because pagan practices have no place in the pure Christian society he is trying to create. On the next summer solstice he plans to descend into the cave to cleanse it and bring it to God.
However, Mann underestimates the power of what lurks in the cave. Upon his emergence from the dark underground, an unnatural darkness befalls the town. Soon, the phone lines stop working and roads turn back to Moonwell, making it impossible for residents to escape. Campbell succeeds in creating an atmosphere that gradually becomes more horrifying as the book goes on. With most of the town's populace in Godwin Mann's thrall, it is up to the few outcasts and remaining non-believers to stop the Eldritch Abomination that has been unleashed.
This book provides examples of the following:
- The '80s: Hungry Moon was released in 1986 and shows some of the trends from that time. Godwin Mann is reminiscent of real life preachers, such as Billy Graham, who became famous during the growing evangelical movement. The Moonwell residents' distrust of a nearby nuclear base also reflects the fears many people had of nuclear weapons during the Cold War. There are also references to things like phonebooks, which would make the book seem a bit dated to modern readers.
- Abomination Accusation Attack: June Bevan is angry at the Booths for selling a children's book that features a little boy walking around in the nude. She accuses them of being perverts and even hints that they had unsavory reasons for wanting to spend time with her son Andrew.
- Badass Preacher: Father O'Callahan
- Belief Makes You Stupid: The residents of Moonwell are so taken up with Mann's preaching that they fail to realize that he is the cause of all the chaos in town. They even continue to blindly worship him after he has been completely taken over by the moon creature who is planning to use a local nuclear base to destroy the world.
- Book Burning: A few of the townspeople buy books which they consider to be obscene from Jeremy and Geraldine and burn them right in front of the shop.
- Demonization: The few residents of Moonwell who don't accept Godwin Mann's strict brand of Christianity are looked upon with suspicion by everyone else.
- Dreaming the Truth: Near the end of the book, Diana stares at a framed picture of a moor and goes into a trance where she has a vision of the creation of the universe and the solar system. She learns about the origin of the creature that came from the moon. It is an ancient supernatural being that has been feared by mankind since prehistoric times. All religions were created as an attempt to understand and placate it.
- Folk Horror: Plays a major part in the book, with its focus on pagan rituals and nefarious beings lurking in the woods near the town.
- Former Teen Rebel: During his first sermon, Mann tells the people of Moonwell about the vices he engaged in before his conversion. These include drinking alcohol, using drugs, and visiting a prostitute when he was 15.
- The Fundamentalist: Godwin Mann and his followers who come to Moonwell fit this trope to a T.
- Hollywood Atheist: Benedict Eddings's father-in-law, Craig, comes off as a stereotypical atheist who believes that religion is a bunch of superstitious nonsense.
- Hollywood Satanism: This trope makes a brief appearance when one of Mann's followers mentions that he was in a Satanic cult before joining the evangelist's group.
- The Man in the Moon: One character sees a trio of faces appear in the moon one night.
- Moral Guardians: After the evangelists arrive in Moonwell, the townsfolk turn against Jeremy and Geraldine Booth, believing that the books they sell are indecent.
- Meaningful Name: Godwin Mann
- The Night That Never Ends: The town becomes dark 24/7 after Mann's descent into the cave. After a few days, the streetlights start to malfunction as well, plunging the town into near-total darkness.
- Two-Teacher School: The school in Moonwell seems to have only three teachers: Diana and Mr. and Mrs. Scragg.
- Undead Child: The Booths are walking in a graveyard at night, when they see a ghostly white little boy who looks like them and claims to be their son Jonathan who was stillborn eight years ago. It later turns out to be a shapeshifting creature from the cave that the moon creature was using to play on Geraldine's emotions.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: When Godwin Mann goes into the cave, he unintentionally releases an ancient evil that has been trapped there since Roman times.
- Weirdness Magnet: Moonwell starts becoming this after Godwin Mann's arrival. It becomes even more apparent after he climbs back out of the cave on the summer solstice.