Book Review: The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: Book 1
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books (July 5, 2016)
Length: 352 pages
I’m not really afraid of spiders. Yes, they’re kinda icky, but unless I find one right in my personal space I tend to just leave the little crawlies be. Like they say, most house spiders are relatively harmless and I actually like to keep them around to take care of other worst insect pests that might be lurking about.
But the spiders in The Hatching, though? NO. Dear God, just…NO. In the reading of this book, I had to fight several urges not to jump into the shower every few minutes, because I was convinced I was feeling hundreds of tiny little skittering legs crawling all over my skin. And like I said, I am not afraid of spiders (or at least I didn’t used to be). If however you’re an arachnophobe, then this is going to go really badly for you.
The Hatching begins in the jungles of Peru, where The Swarm (given the kind of book we’re talking about, I feel it’s only correct to designate the spider horde as a character in its own right) claims its first victim. Before long though, other disturbing reports are emerging all over the world. In China, a nuclear bomb goes off, which their government claims was a “training incident” gone wrong. In Minneapolis, an American billionaire’s private jet suddenly falls out of the sky. In Kanpur, India, a group of scientists receive unusual seismic readings at their earthquake lab. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, screams suddenly ring out aboard a cargo ship. The commonality between all these events? Give yourself a pat on the back if you guessed eight-legged menaces.
Accordingly, this story follows a large number of characters in a large number of settings, but eventually we get to tease out a handful of perspectives that make up our main cast. At the American University in Washington DC, Dr. Melanie Guyer is a leading spider researcher working with a mysterious calcified egg sac found buried beneath the ancient Nazca Lines. Her ex-husband Manny is conveniently the White House Chief of Staff to President Stephanie Pilgrim, where he gets a front row seat to all decisions made by the top brass during this global disaster. In Minneapolis, FBI Agent Mike Rich is called to the scene of the aforementioned plane crash and makes a gruesome discovery. In Scotland, a couple find themselves stranded when all flights are grounded. In California, Corporal Kim Bock and her squad of Marines are getting ready to mobilize, not knowing where they’ll be going but are nonetheless prepared to follow orders. Not far away in an underground bunker, four survivalists take shelter against what they believe is the end of the world. And with that, the stage is set for some arachnid fueled anarchy.
This isn’t the first time I’ve expressed my love for the “natural horror” subgenre, i.e. stories featuring nature or animals destroying civilization and wreaking total havoc on the human race. And I’m sure it’s not going to be the last. For a novel of its type, The Hatching is actually really decent. It does its job well, kicking things off with a bang. Then after that little tease, it dials back a bit to spend the next quarter of the book or so building up the suspense, taking us globetrotting to show how The Swarm is affecting the entire world.
What I really liked is how the focus is spiders, but the narrative actually reads more like a global epidemic. One of the reasons why I can tolerate spiders is the fact they are usually solitary creatures; I would be an entirely different matter if they always appeared en masse. I’m also not too worried about them because they’re typically more afraid of you than you are of them, and are happy to leave humans alone. However, the spiders in The Hatching are not like normal spiders. They travel in thick groups, moving like a solid river of black, and they have no compunctions about swarming you and eating your face. What made for such a sweet, touching moment at the end of Charlotte’s Web is suddenly transformed into a hellish scene of nightmare proportions as flesh-eating spiders literally start raining out of the sky. They also find the squishy insides of the human body to be the most ideal place to lay their eggs, and you really don’t want to be the poor host when they hatch. These scary quirks in their biology make it virtually impossible to contain the spiders, so very soon The Swarm is out of control—think killer virus outbreak or a zombie plague.
The quality of writing isn’t bad either, though I found it fluctuated from chapter to chapter. Some POVs felt strangely sparse, for instance, while others were fully fleshed out and very well described. My favorite sections were those featuring Gordo and his fellow survivalists out in Desperation, California; I thought the chapter introducing them all could have been a great short story all on its own. None of the other characters really made an impression, however, not even the “main” characters like Melanie, Manny, or Mike. I found even fewer of them to be likeable, though to be fair, I’m sure many of them were solely written in to be spider food. And in the end, with books like The Hatching, what you see is really what you get. The novel delivered exactly what I expected of it, so I hardly have cause to complain. I enjoyed myself, which is the most important thing, and there’s no denying I was thoroughly entertained.
I believe The Hatching is the first part of a planned trilogy, and I’m glad. This was a lot of fun, and the ending sets things up brilliantly for a sequel. I’m really looking forward to seeing how humanity will survive the spider apocalypse…or if we even do.