It was a big freaking spider.
These are the very first words of Skitter by Ezekiel Boone, which continues where last year’s The Hatching left off. (Read the review.) After thousands of years of dormancy, the flesh eating spider swarms made their global debut. It’s only been a couple weeks since their arrival, but to those inside the catastrophe, it’s been an eternity. In an attempt to eradicate the insects, China has obliterated half its territory with nukes. Los Angeles, thanks to the spiders and the quarantine declared by President Pilgrim, has become a dystopia where a former conman becomes a prophet leading an army of thousands. Many parts of the world have become completely cut off. And it’s only the beginning, Arachnid expert Melanie Guyer has discovered there’s another hatching coming and the new batch of spiders is even worse.
Once again, Boone brings us creepy crawly terror galore. (Anyone prone to nightmares involving spiders and/or other insects should probably give this series a pass.) Characters such as Dr. Guyer, President Stephanie Pilgrim, her aide Manny, Shotgun the survivalist, and others are back. Boone cleverly arranges things so many of the new characters collide and interact with one another in fun and ingenious ways. There’s an especially hilarious segment where the flamboyantly gay Fred welcomes an army platoon with mint juleps and the promise of pulled pork tacos.
In some parts of the world, like a remote Scottish island or for vacationers in Hawaii, life goes on as usual, albeit with more limited supplies. But in other places civilization has broken down completely and, while various scientific geniuses are making new discoveries about the spiders and how perhaps to combat them, President Pilgrim is forced into ever harder choices that in a sense mean abandoning, or worse yet, sacrificing huge swaths of the country altogether.
There are two flaws; one the subplot involving Agent Mike Rich and his family is cut off from the rest of the book and frankly less interesting. Skitter, the middle chapter of a planned trilogy (Zero Hour comes out in 2018), inevitably has several open plot lines which, while they will no doubt be headed for resolution in the conclusion, may well irritate readers who prefer instant gratification. (These people should probably wait for all three books to come out, before attacking the trilogy as a set.) But this second entry once more demonstrates Boone’s talent for building suspense. He certainly leaves the reader hungry for more.
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