★ ★ ★ ★ ★
They were frantic. Dozens of them at least. They’d been packed in the egg, and they came out in a swarm, their bodies unfolding, alien and beautiful. Big and fast, black apricots thundering against the glass. Skittering.
When I was little, I had an illustrated book of poems. I’m sure they were mostly lovely. But the only one I remember went like this:
Don’t care didn’t care,
Don’t care was wild.
Don’t care stole plum and pear,
Like any beggar’s child.
Don’t care was made to care,
Don’t care was hung.
Don’t care was put in a pot,
And boiled till he was done.
Don’t Care was accompanied by an illustration of a freckle-faced little boy, poking his poor little head out of a cauldron over a big, orange fire. It horrified me. It fascinated me. It was so gruesome to me then. If I was bored, I’d open the book, take a peek and snap it shut with a shiver.
The Hatching is my grown-up equivalent of Don’t Care. Horrifying, but just try and look away.
It opens with a group of tourists in a tropical, eerily quiet Peruvian jungle. And a hoard of mandible-clacking, flesh-and-blood-eating spiders…
And these spiders are horribly, horribly organised.
They don’t operate alone. They come suddenly from nowhere, totally coordinated, moving like a black river. Then they engulf you. Clack clack clack.
But they’re not just in Peru.
China’s secretly nuking itself. America’s in meltdown. In Kanpur there’s some weird patterns on the seismograph. Even the Outer Hebrides aren’t getting off scot-free. They’re everywhere. This is total apocalypse by spiders.
The story skips back and forth across quite a large stock of people and places. It makes the story so fast and moreish. I tore through it.
There’s something properly B-movie about The Hatching. Good old-fashioned monsters that have been lying dormant for a few millennia. But now they’re laying eggs in people. Bursting out of live bodies. No one’s safe. I almost didn’t want to get attached to any of the characters. Especially when they’re throwing around sentiments like, ‘I promise I’ll be back soon…’
But good luck not getting drawn to these characters. Because this is where the B-movie thing stops.
Forget about shrieking damsels with heaving bosoms and auto-unbuttoning blouses. Here are kick-arse women with guns, test tubes, and the keys to the White House.
There’s America’s first female president, doing all she can to protect the world from carnivorous spiders. The US secretary of defence is a 70-something-year-old woman, and she’s fierce. A female marine heads up her (male) team in the battle against arachnids. Meanwhile, a lead female science professor races against rapidly hatching egg sacs to discover just what the hell these killer spiders are.
There are others, too. Men – not just women – scattered across the world with stories I can’t wait to read more about in the rest of the series. (Although I honestly don’t know how I’m going to wait for book two, which won’t be published until May.)
Basically, if you’re after a fun, disturbing, addictive read that’ll have you swatting at the slightest tickle on your arm, or jumping at shadowy shapes at the edge of your vision – grab a copy of The Hatching.
Oh, and a rolled-up newspaper.