Skitter (The Hatching #2)

The one thing I do miss about the frigid weather up north is that it is an effective pesticide. Sure, we get those awful hairy centipedes in the winter, and mosquitoes in the summer (it's more humid there than a lot of people think) and the usual bees, ants, and other insectidae et arachnidae. However, the general state of frigidity from October through May kills off all but the hardiest bugs.

Alas, this is not the case here in the Carolinas. There are bugs everywhere.

I can't outdo my friends in Australia, where I believe 99% of the wildlife is actively trying to kill you, but we do have quite a lot of lethal species here. Both black widows and brown recluses have spider representation down, plus copperheads, rattlesnakes, water moccasins, and coral snakes. Also bears on land and great white sharks at sea. So, that being said, I suppose I shouldn't worry too much about the weird fly infestation of my apartment, or how cockroaches balefully assert their prior ownership of the land by skittering out and scaring the pants off of me. 

And now, for a totally unpaid product recommendation: Combat discs are excellent for roaches and the Raid "flying insect" spray completely slaughters flies and other weird things like earwigs that I didn't even know were lurking in my apartment. Should I be using all these chemicals in my house? Probably not, but given that we found out that the ominously named chemical "GenX" has been dumped in the water supply for the city over the past 20 years, I don't have time to worry about fly insecticides. 

Anyway, I really don't like bugs. I appreciate the fact that they are just part of the ecosystem and have a job to do, et cetera, but I don't want them in my house. So why I picked up a horror series about killer spiders is quite beyond me, but it's very well-written. Shockingly, book two improved upon book one, and that's what I'll be reviewing today. 

Skitter picks up a few weeks after the events of The Hatching. Flesh-eating spider swarms have flooded forth from the bowels of the Earth and started attacking humanity. They also like to wriggle inside people, reproduce, and then burst forth like eight-legged versions of the alien chestburster. There is actual biological precedent for this, such as wasps that lay their eggs inside of spiders and the egg hatches inside the spider, with the innards creating a breakfast buffet for the wee larva. 

Nature is nothing if not efficient. It's also brutal and terrifying and I'm allergic to most of it, so I like cities. 

At the apogee of their attack, all of the killer spiders suddenly curled up and died. Melanie Guyer, the scientist who specializes in spiders and who assisted the U.S. government during the first wave of the attack, warns that this is not over. Something much worse is coming. And we are woefully unprepared.

The discovery of giant egg sacs tucked away in dark corners of infested cities sparks a new panic--and Melanie realizes that the precarious quarantine has already been shattered. President Stephanie Pilgrim has grim choices to make, and what she decides might mean the end of the United States as we know it.

Skitter follows several characters, and the character development and growth in the novel is pretty astounding, given that it's only about 350 pages and many of those pages are devoted to spider attacks. We meet some rich but paranoid preppers who hunker down in a remote Californian town once the spider apocalypse comes to play, but who quickly figure out that survival is actually pretty boring. Mike Rich, the FBI agent featured in the first book, takes a secondary role here but remains interesting and complex. 

Despite all of the horrifying visuals, this is really a book about how humanity copes (or does not cope) with the world falling apart in the most frightening way. Not only do people have to cope with killer spiders, but Russia and China start nuking each other (and themselves). Schemers crawl out of the woodwork to assume the mantle of false prophets, promising empty salvation from the spiders and simultaneously amassing power for themselves. It's a study of the worst parts of human nature, and sometimes it's hard not to want the spiders to win. 

Skitter is one of the rare books that overcomes Second Book Syndrome (SBS) and actually surpasses its predecessor. Now begins the long, long wait for book three.


  1. Actually, I believe that chest busting wasp was the inspiration for Alien. I think I will give this trilogy a miss, though. I can't cope with insect-themed horror fiction. I like to be deliciously scared, not terrified! But do enjoy! :-)

  2. That makes sense! I generally don't do insect horror either, but this is my exception. Hmm.


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