The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone
An astonishingly inventive and terrifying debut novel about the emergence of an ancient species, dormant for over a thousand years, and now on the march.
Deep in the jungle of Peru, where so much remains unknown, a black, skittering mass devours an American tourist whole. Thousands of miles away, an FBI agent investigates a fatal plane crash in Minneapolis and makes a gruesome discovery. Unusual seismic patterns register in a Kanpur, India earthquake lab, confounding the scientists there. During the same week, the Chinese government “accidentally” drops a nuclear bomb in an isolated region of its own country. As these incidents begin to sweep the globe, a mysterious package from South America arrives at a Washington, D.C. laboratory. Something wants out.
The world is on the brink of an apocalyptic disaster. An ancient species, long dormant, is now very much awake.
My wife has a pet tarantula. I’ve told her on more than on occasion that it disturbs me. I find myself both terrified and fascinated by it in equal measure. I remember when it first arrived in our household, I used to have nightmares that it would somehow learn to escape from its tank, successfully open all the doors between the living room and our bedroom and that I would wake up with it sat on my face. I’m having difficulty, based on this admission, deciding whether I am the perfect (or worst) audience for The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone. The honest answer is probably a bit of both. I suppose it is a good job I enjoy looking for horror novels that drill into my most primal fears.
The Hatching is very much an ensemble piece, there are a whole host of different characters to discover. Everyone from the President of the US to doomsday preppers pop up. My personal favourites are a squad of Marines who end up being totally out of their depth, and a professor in Washington DC who finds herself the de-facto expert on the crawling terror. There are also a handful of chapters featuring a couple of characters on a remote Scottish island. This pleased me immensely. It is always nice to see your home country mentioned during any apocalypse. The balance between all these different people and groups is just right. Their differing reactions perfectly capture the full gamut of emotions. The questions I kept asking myself, what would I do in their various situations? It is the ultimate battle between fight or flight. Knowing me I’d most likely be rooted to the spot in blind, mind-bending terror. I’d end my days as some sort of carnivorous spider hotel. What a truly unpleasant thought.
A word of warning, if you have a squeamish disposition you might want to give The Hatching a miss. There are some spectacularly nasty moments. The spiders will eat through anything (or anyone) and in the best parasitic fashion, will lay their eggs anywhere. As I’m sure you can imagine things get more than a little bit icky. If I’m being entirely honest I have to admit that I absolutely love it. Like I said earlier, I’m both terrified and fascinated when it comes to eight legged beasties. Any horror novel that manages to get me making the noise “Euuuwwww” out loud is doing its job right as far as I’m concerned. The Hatching is that perfect mix of gross out over the top spectacle and creepy shocks. I’m sure the author will be pleased to note that just thinking about it now is making my skin crawl.
In the past, with a few notable exceptions, I’ve been critical of apocalyptic fiction that focuses too much on one location. It seems only sensible to me that if the world is going to end then you want to get a flavour of what is going on everywhere. I’m pleased to see that the author has done exactly that in this instance. The narrative has a distinctly international flavour, there are chapters in the United States, China, Scotland and Peru. I particularly enjoy when the different threads of the plot interweave with one another. In a couple of instances, a chapter following one character will end only for the next to pick up in the same location but from a different character’s perspective. This type of storytelling lends itself well to fast paced action and help to ramp up the tension.
I read with interest that this book has already been sold to Lionsgate for development. I’d love to see what they would make of this. A spidery apocalypse on the big screen has the potential to look amazing, ok gross as Hell, but still amazing. Who knows, perhaps in a couple of years I’ll be sitting down to watch the movie version The Hatching in my local multiplex? I do hope so; that would be all kinds of awesome.
The novel ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger, I’d imagine that will drive some readers slightly insane but if I’m honest I couldn’t be happier. It appears the human race is royally screwed and I can’t wait to find out what happens next. Boone’s debut novel is an apocalyptic triumph; the writing is captivating enough to ensure that I’ll definitely be back for more. I only have two questions – What will the next novel be called and when will it be released? This Ezekiel Boone fan needs to know!
The Hatching is published by Gollancz and is available now.