Ginger Nuts of Horror
Gollancz (5 July 2016) 352 pages
Led Zepplin once sang about "a bustle in your hedgerow." While they proclaimed that any alarm was not necessary, after reading The Hatching from Ezekiel Boone, any bustles, rustles or hustles emanating from any hedgerow or any other shrubbery based garden feature should be met with not just extreme caution, but with extreme prejudice.
The Hatching marks the debut of an exciting new talent in horror / sci-fi/thrillers, a pre-apocalyptic novel told from various viewpoints, with a sense of pace that and narrative drive that has to be read to be believed, and a fantastic and chilling adversary, THE HATCHING is an assured debut novel.
Horror is a strange beast, despite the wide-ranging umbrella of what constitutes horror, it seems to be a slave to its brand of what is hip at that moment of time. It is why we have had zombie novel after zombie novel, and the surge in tortured vampires. It can after a while make the genre seem stale. So when a novel comes along, that bucks the trend and decides to resurrect an all too underused subgenre. The Hatching is a wonderful return to the world of man versus nature and the end of the world.
Something is crawling out of the cracks, a scuttling, and scurrying terror that has been lying dormant awaiting the right moment to attack. A force of nature so destructive and single-mindedly alien it will take a disparate group of heroes to battle the eight-legged monstrosities.
If it has not clicked by now, the monsters of The Hatching is a species of invasive adrenalin fuelled uber spider with a taste for human flesh. Stirred out of a state of dormancy they cause huge panic and destruction across the globe. Boone's use of the spiders is flawless, from the debut attack on a group of tourist hiking in Peru, it is made clear that this is going to be a thrill ride of a novel. However it is only when the narrative camera "pulls back" and we see that this is not an isolated incident, and the spider attacks are happening all over the world do we understand just what is at stake. Mankind's time on earth could very well be on the way out.
Spiders, by their nature, are perfect for a horror novel, our base instincts tell us to be wary of them, and despite the repeated proclamations of the novel's arachnid expert that spiders will leave us alone if we leave them alone, we still recoil at the sight of them. So when the author decides to ramp up the terror by making these spiders a tidal wave of flesh-eating terror, with a ramped up life cycle and a rather nasty choice in ideal nesting locations, the level of despair and general uneasiness, is maxed out in a genuinely chilling way.
The thew narrative drive of The Hatching is breakneck, to say the least; Boone keeps the shocks and terrors coming at full tilt, which gives the readers very little time to breathe in between their gasps at the gloriously gruesome deaths that some of the characters are subjected to. This is one of those books where no one is safe, just because the author takes the time to introduce and allow us to get to know a character is no guarantee that he or she will see out the end of the day.
At times it feels as though they are just there to serve as the spiders all you can eat buffet. However, some excellent characterisation saves the book from becoming just another stack them up to be killed the novel. Obviously, the most space on the page is devoted to what will probably turn out to be the trio of heroes that will come together in book two to save the day. The FBI Agent, the female marine and the plucky career driven spider expert. These three characters are given time to develop and have distinct personalities; they are well written, and their motives ring true, in particular, the motives of Kim Bock the female marine. Boone has taken care to create a character that isn't your cliched butch I want to compete with the guys female marine that is common among novels of this sort. However, all this good work is nearly derailed by the personality of Professor Guyer and in particular with her relationship with her grad student Brock. I get that the author was trying to make her feisty and strong, but the way in which he points out her sexual relationship with Brock just comes across as being crude and unnecessary. Despite this misstep, the cast of characters is great and diverse. Credit has to be given to the author for not falling into the trap of giving the characters from different nationalities a "regional voice", by keeping the dialogue neutral regarding colloquialism the characters never sound like cliches, especially with regards to the Scottish characters. It was refreshing not to have an "och aye the noo" spouting Scotsman that is so beloved of our cousins from across the pond.
The Hatching is a perfect fun-filled rollercoaster of a blockbuster read, a genre mash-up that will have you turning the pages quicker than incy wincy spider climbed up that rainspout.