THE HATCHING by Ezekiel Boone 
It’s not often that I manage to obtain, read and review a book within the same month as its release. Yet I was excited by the sound of THE HATCHING, and after seeing a full page advert for it in a magazine, I just had to get hold of it. I’m a huge fan of the horror sub-genre of Creature-Features, or Animal Horror, or Nature’s Revenge, or whatever you want to call it. I’m a collector of the pulpy books from the 70’s and 80’s, the ‘In the tradition of The Rats...’ books, with titles like SCORPION, DEVIL’S COACH HORSE, SLIME [jellyfish], BLIGHT [moths], LOCUSTS, WORMS, BATS OUT OF HELL and so on. Books where the titular animal emerges from somewhere in their thousands and goes on to eat, suck, dribble, flap or skitter about the country, causing havoc and death, before being neatly wrapped up in 160 pages. They’re formulaic, samey, and sometimes not very well-written, but there is lot of love out there in horror land for these garish old paperbacks. So, when I heard about THE HATCHING, a new heavily-promoted hardback from new writer Ezekiel Boone [a pseudonym for New York writer Alexi Zentner] which has got some great reviews, it was great to hear of a resurgence of interest in swarms of flesh-eating critters.
THE HATCHING has a simple plot. All over the world, at around the same time, an ancient and unknown species of spider is hatching from long-dormant eggs. The creatures are on an incredible speed of evolution, and very, very quickly they lay more eggs [in living hosts] and before you can roll up the newspaper, there are literally millions of the little buggers, fast emerging like flowing rivers in China and India, and eventually worldwide, and presented to the world as short video-clips taken by onlookers and on constant repeat on the news channels. Boone takes us through this experience by introducing a large cast of characters, including the first female president of the USA, military soldiers, doomsday survivalists, FBI agents, graduate students and a science professor who is an expert in all-things eight-legged. The action moves quickly, from viewpoint to viewpoint, and the action creeps up until the whole planet is being menaced by the flesh-eating things. I really don’t like spiders, and some parts of this book gave me the genuine shudders and made me look around the room and jump at bits of fluff and dust moving about the place. Also, because I’m an idiot, I read this book at the beginning of spider-season in the UK, when the female spiders, grown fat and juicy, venture out of their nests to find a mate. Splatter shoes and vacuum cleaner on standby!
THE HATCHING was a really fun book, an arachnaphobic horror thriller and a very quick read, and I finished it in a couple of days. It has a great idea and the writing is spare, lean and to the point, and in general, I just had a good time with this novel and heartily recommend it to others. It’s the sort of quick-paced thriller that will get snapped up by a film company and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a film in the next year or two.
This is an enjoyable book and I urge any fan of the sub-genre to read it but I want to highlight a few minor flaws that I felt let it down a little. Firstly, it is a little slow in getting going and Boone introduces a lot of characters, each with deep and complex backgrounds, within about 50 pages, so that sometimes characters don’t quite have enough space to develop and feel like truly real characters [and one character, unfortunately named Fanny, I just couldn’t take seriously at all]. All this is interesting, well-written exposition, but I just felt it was getting in the way of the spider carnage. And as for the spider-carnage, I felt that lots of the action sort of happened off-screen, a little like Gareth Edwards’ recent GODZILLA movie, building up to the action but then cutting away to something else. There’s still plenty of interest and action here, just some of it seems to be told instead of shown, and the book shies away from truly horrific description, making it more of a horror-themed thriller than an out-and-out horror novel. In fact in some places it feels like it’s trying to build a WORLD WAR Z sort of vibe, chronicling a worldwide disaster as it enfolds, but it’s not completely successful. The book’s major flaw was what I thought was an unsatisfying ending; the book comes to a climax of a sort, but it’s just really a lead-in to the forthcoming sequel SKITTER, and I left the book feeling slightly disappointed, while also eagerly waiting for the next book; there isn’t much closure in THE HATCHING.
But, seriously, these things are minor quibbles, and I think some of my disappointment at the ending was simply because I wanted more, which is not such a bad thing. Some reviewers are calling this ‘the horror book of 2016’, and they may be right, but I personally haven’t read enough new books to bestow that accolade. What I will end with, is THE HATCHING is a fast, enjoyable and just plain fun book, and I’ll be watching Ezekiel Boone’s future career with one eye, while keeping the other firmly fixed on all the dusty places behind the couch and in the brickwork. 8/10
NOTE - I have festooned this review with a selection of similar Nature's Revenge titles, simply because the paperback covers are so damn good. In the creepy-crawly stakes, I think Richard Lewis wins the web with SPIDERS, THE WEB, DEVIL'S COACH-HORSE, THE BLACK HORDE and probably some others I've forgotten. And I've popped THE RATS in, too, as that was the book that started the whole thing going. And Guy N.Smith's BATS OUT OF HELL. Just 'cos it's cool.