(2017) Ezekiel Boone, Gollancz, £14.99, hrdbk, xv + 329pp, ISBN 978-1-473-22115-4
Millions are dead. Half of China is a nuclear wasteland. Mysterious flesh-eating spiders are marching through Los Angles, Oslo, Dehli, and other cities. However, according to scientist Melanie Gruyer, the spider situation is looking up...
Da da da da da daaaa! Imagine one of those old TV shows, slightly camp, tongue-in-cheek, like the 1960s Batman or The Man From UNCLE, or Wonder Woman. Itís a scene break, watch as some flashing images cross the screen, hear some lively music and so in the narrative world of Ezekiel Boone, his novel The Hatching has come to an end Ėand whoosh Ė a whole week has passed and we are now in the sequel novel Skitter, and things are still pretty dire thanks to the rise of the flesh-eating spiders. We are a long way from the first novel and the appearance of killer spiders in South America and the hatching of a 10,000 year old egg in America, but it looks like the tide is finally turning, and while millions are dead, cities are ghost cities because their inhabitants have fled, or been eaten, mankind could actually be winning, but, uh, oh, whatís this? A giant Ė and I mean, giant Ė egg-sac has been found in Japan. Not only is it big, itís glowing, and other egg-sacs are turning up throughout the world. It seems that those dastardly spiders arenít in retreat after all, they are merely drawing back to protect their egg-sacs and give them a chance to hatch, and if they do, then it is game over for humanity. It is time for President Stephanie Pilgrim to call up her spider expert, Professor Melanie Gruyer to figure out a way to stop the spiders. If not, then the President is going to be forced to enforce 'the Spanish Protocol', and she doesnít want to do that, unless she is forced into a corner.
If you enjoyed The Hatching then you will enjoy this as itís more of the same. Pretty sketchy characterisation, fast action and lots of plot lines with story threads that take place all over the world Ė various parts of America, the White House, Brazil, Oslo, Dehli, Peru, even the Isle of Lewis off the coast of Scotland features for a few pages. Although there are no proper chapters and chapter numbers, I counted a prologue, an epilogue and fifty five sections in between, so this is my sort of fast-paced read.
Old faces from the previous book appear and we are introduced to some new faces, and some of them wonít be appearing in the third book of the trilogy as they are mere spider-fodder, here to die in all sorts of grisly ways. The ending is a shocker and there are lots of unresolved plot-lines ready to be picked up in Zero Day, the last book of the trilogy. Skitter is great fun, and a bit of a no-brainer. It is not very deep, but fun and pacey and full of gore, a throwback to the days when books were populated by rats and crabs, even cats and grizzly bears, who all wanted to eat people. Is it as good as a James Herbert Rats novel? Probably not as good as The Ratsor Domain but miles better than any Guy Smith 'Crabs' offering, and as much fun as the film Eight Legged Freaks was, and of course, the film rights of the trilogy have been snapped up so expect a movie to be skittering to a cinema near you at some point in the future.
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