Nutshell: The Hatching is a rip-roaring horror thrill ride. A blend of ensemble-cast Stephen King stories like The Stand and Needful Things, mixed with pulpy 70s animal-horror tales. Not for the faint-hearted…and even die-hard horror fans may find themselves checking for webs after this creepy chiller. An excellent start to a promising series. Grade: A
Stand-alone or series: the first in The Hatching series.
Target audience: anyone who loves a good shiver.
Publication 411: hits shelves July 5th, 2016. (Atria/Emily Bestler Books)
“Finally, there was a reason for her to be afraid of spiders.”
Full disclosure: I spent 6 years as a volunteer at the National Zoo’s Invertebrate House, feeding all sorts of animals, including one of my favorites, the Golden Orb Spider (Nephila Madagascariensis). I loved those cricket-slurping gals, and their teeny-tiny male counterparts. So you know the kind of gal I am; I’m not one to typically shriek when I see something with eight legs, unless it’s in my shower and I’m half asleep. Then it’s getting the boot to the flower pot on my deck (or corner of the laundry room if she’s a cellar spider.) She can deal with finding a new pad herownself. So when I saw The Hatching in my queue, I snapped it up. I can handle this, I’ll be fine. Won’t bother me too much, but should provide some good creep.
This scared the crap out of me. And I loved every minute.
The story is the usual “ZOMG THIS THING CAN’T BE STOPPED” trope; in China, Afghanistan, Peru and India, people are meeting up with hordes of swarming spiders. People are losing. Big time. Skin-off-their-bones losing. Before too long, POTUS Stephanie Pilgrim, her Chief of Staff Manny, his entomologist ex-wife Melanie, a group of survivalists, a team of Marines, and three people in a far-off island in Scotland are all trying to make sense of what’s going on. Meanwhile, softball-sized silk pods are cropping up everywhere…
The spiders here are, of course, more than meets the eye. First off, they chew. No drinking for these critters. And it’s unsettling as hell. Then there’s the swarming, the ant-like “all for one” behavior that was so creepy in World War Z, but on a tinier, vaster scale. And while the story takes in literally the whole world, there’s an intimacy to the proceedings thanks to the firm focus on the group of characters that I’m certain will all end up coming together at some point. I really love the intelligence of these characters, and the common sense. As soon as POTUS knows what’s going on, the USA is locked down. No ifs ands, or reckless disbelief. Boone also uses the our modern day 24 hour news cycle & social media in realistic ways to drive the story and deliver exposition. Bravo.
Boone delivers the goods here, and in spades. He’s able to switch from chapter to chapter with a flow that’s cinematic (I wouldn’t be surprised if the movie rights get snapped up double-quick) while keeping the characters front and center even in the midst of the arachno-armageddon. He also gets DC right. From the Tara Thai on Mass Ave to the hoop-jumping in the White House, this DC area native didn’t experience a single moment of dissonance.
The closest I’ve ever come to being this freaked out while reading a horror story was during Jaws. Same feeling of dread, helplessness and panic. Same overwhelming fear of Other. And the same wide-eyed terror. There’s also a similarity to those fun “animal horror” books I read when I was a kid. Nickel and dime dreadfuls from the library book sale, like Grizzly, The Swarm, and Prophecy. The Hatching has that same roller-coaster of horror and action, but with a better sense of character, and a more accomplished take on the overall mythology.
With this being the start of a larger series, I don’t know if this is a new classic or just a gruesome bit of fun, but it’s a page turner no doubt. I found myself getting irked that I had to put down my Kindle when Real Life ™ crept in to my reading time. The nerve! But I dove back in as soon as I could. So basically plan to be completely taken over by this story. Luckily, even at 300+ pages, it’s a quick read. Page-turners tend to be. Plus, Boone’s easy-going storytelling washes over you
like so many spiders, making the speed at which the pages turn seem like a natural flow.
The only thing that really pissed me off was the serial nature of this book. I’d no idea this was book one of a series until I was at about 75% and knew there was no way this story could effectively wrap up in the time allotted. I wanted more, dammit. I needed to know what was next, and I still do. With Skitter, the second book of the series, scheduled for May 2017, I’ve got almost a year to bounce in my chair until I can find out what’s next. I CAN’T WAIT.
[NOTE: I received a free Kindle advance reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review. I received nothing else, not even a softball-sized egg sac. Kinda glad about that, actually.]