Review: The Hatching

HatchingBy Ezekiel Boone

Gollancz, out now

The most terrifying thriller you’ll read in 2016 – apparently…

That claim from the book’s publicity might be the case if you’ve not read anything else during the year – and haven’t at any point read any early James Herbert, or any of Guy N. Smith’s canon, or, particularly in this case, Tim Lebbon’s The Silence (about another ancient species that brings apocalypse). The publicity also notes that the story has been picked up as a movie – and that’s what this reads like: a not particularly well done novelisation of a Syfy B-movie. It’s Kingdom of the Spiders – that feat of moviemaking magic starring William Shatner – on a global scale.

We start off with some mysterious deaths, as a stream of spiders overwhelm a guide in Peru; one of his charges escapes and is killed, along with everyone else, on the aircraft taking him home; the FBI investigator believes he’s been bitten when he sees the spider coming out of the man’s face… Meanwhile, the Chinese nuke a mine, and there are weird earthquakes in Delhi. Could they all be linked? Well, I believe Homer Simpson has the standard answer to that one…

I wouldn’t mind the generic nature of the story if the writing style had made it stand out in some way, but it doesn’t – at least not positively. The characters’ inner monologues are too similar – they come from all corners of the world, but think too much in the same way, just with the local colour slightly changed. And they’re not particularly inspired – we have a female President of the US who’s shagging her Chief of Staff who just happens to be the ex-husband of the Only Scientist Who Can Understand The Problem and Save Us. (It just about worked in Independence Day. It sure as hell doesn’t here.) We have an Indian worker who might as well have a sticker on his head saying I’m Screwed and I’m Not Going to Survive, when he gets a text from his wife saying her contractions have started. The FBI agent’s ex-wife reveals she’s pregnant, and he realises There Are Bigger Things Than That to Worry About…

I could go on about the time wasted reading this in the hope that once the damn things started attacking, it would improve, but instead, the attacks themselves aren’t seen in the first 200 pages, just the build-up and then a report about the aftermath. As a movie, this might just about work if the CG is done well, and the arachnophobics are targeted. As a book… choose something else.

Verdict: Generic, derivative and incredibly unfrightening. 2/10

Paul Simpson

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