The Hatching | Ezekiel Boone | 2016 (5 July) | Gollancz | 352p | Review copy | Buy the book
If you have a phobia for anything with eight legs then you might want to close your eyes while you read the review below. If you’re perfectly happy around our little eight-legged friends, you soon won’t be…
A rich man’s expedition into the Peruvian jungle has a less than desirable ending when the party is consumed by a writhing, seething black force of nature. A plane crashes in the US, its survivor surviving not very long at all when the worst thing that’s ever happened to him is swiftly followed by an even worse thing. The world is shocked by news that the Chinese government is dropping nuclear weapons – by accident, apparently – on remote areas of its own country. At the same time, India is shaken by tremors. It’s as if the Earth itself is reeling. It can hardly be a coincidence when scientist Melanie Guyer receives a package containing a pulsating, warm mass. Increasingly concerned by what she discovers, Melanie contacts her ex-husband, who has the ear of the American president. Meanwhile, FBI agent Mike Rich is on a trail of discovery and it’s littered with eight-legged flesh-eating spiders – and they are very hungry indeed.
As soon as I heard about The Hatching I was desperate to read it. The author is called Ezekiel Boone and that made me even more desperate to read it. I love disaster movies and stories and this has it all. It’s fast. We jump constantly and hungrily between characters and disaster hotspots around the world (including the Scottish island) in a crescendo of catastrophe. The focus is on Rich and Melanie – one following the action while the other follows the science, both destined to merge – but there are a host of other people to enjoy here. Not that it pays to get too attached.
I particularly enjoyed the Californian survivalists, who aren’t at all what you’d expect from survivalists, even those who live in a town called Desperation. They have the supplies and weapons stored in their bunkers – nothing unusual there – but these are people who realise that surviving the end of the world isn’t really worth it that much if you do it on your own. They are likeable, and one of the survivalist couples is gay. Stereotypes take a bit of an assault here and elsewhere in the book. Although, when it comes down to it, the critters attack and the people scream – the same way that it’s been done forever and it works.
I do like Ezekiel Boone’s writing. The author is clearly having as much fun as the reader but he also knows how to maintain the tension, the panic levels and the drama as everything spirals out of control. And we are not spared the gore and general unpleasantness of being attacked by ravenous carnivorous spiders. There are a few truly revolting moments mixed up in the thrills. It is extremely hard to put down and, to be honest, I didn’t even bother. I read it in one day.
The Hatching follows in the fine tradition of Jaws, Jurassic Park, The Swarm and others and, when done well as this is, I can’t get enough of such books. I was fortunate enough to read a review copy of this with spiders actually hidden within the pages. Whether this made me screech a bit is open to debate but The Hatching is such a thoroughly entertaining, deliciously skin-crawling horror thriller that you’ll like it with or without the spiders falling on your lap as you read it. The ending is fabulous, setting up the next book perfectly and I cannot wait.