For the second time in as many months, I find myself stepping out from the crowd and disagreeing with the popular consensus on what has been a well-received, well-reviewed horror story. Maybe it's just me, but I'm curious to hear what other people think about these two titles . . .
The Hatching had a great premise, and the opening scene was fantastic. There was so much tension and drama in that scene, beautifully setting up the first dreamlike emergence of the spiders, that I was really excited.
Unfortunately, that was the last time anything excited me about this book.
Part of the problem is the pacing. I gave up at just over 100 pages, consigning this to the DNF pile, because nothing happened. We met lots of characters, had lots of clichéd story arcs set up, and were spoon-fed tiny little hints of invasion, but aside from a few glimpses of strange black pools (and the spider-as-water metaphor was getting really tired), we never see a damned spider.
The other part of the problem is the characters. Each and every one is either an embarrassing trope or a sexist cliché, as if Ezekiel Boone picked them out of a stock character bucket. You've got a burned out cop, stuck in the middle of a nasty divorce, who is responsible for his partner getting shot (there really should be a law against that trope by now). You've got a hot, young, female President of the United States (because nobody wants to read about a mature, realistic heroine, apparently) who is cheating on her husband, and who sends a White House aide for freakin' chips and popcorn in the middle of a war exercise. You also have a hot, divorced college professor who curses like a sailor, and sleeps with her students (because, again, nobody wants to read about a mature, realistic heroine, apparently).
You've even got a gay couple, who we are constantly asked to applaud as being very cool and very diverse and very unusual, because even though they can't repopulate the human race (oh, please), they're still brave survivalists. On that note, we also get a pair of embarrassingly named hippie survivalists (they're supposed to be cleverly ironic), new to town, and guaranteed to cause conflict, because she's hot and he's an ass. Heck, we even get that one token Asian guy, who manages to pull a Jack Bauer and escape the Chinese military in a dilapidated pick-up truck (not once, but twice!), innocently carrying the spider infection (gasp!) away from the coming nuclear eradication.
Other readers seem to love it, and have gushed about how terrifying and creepy it was, but those are not words I would ever use to describe this story. Boring, exasperating, and borderline offensive, yes, but terrifying and creepy, no. I couldn't even be bothered to skim ahead and check out the ending. Just not interested.
Hardcover, 352 pages
Expected publication: July 5th 2016 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Hex, by comparison, isn't that bad, but it's still a case of fantastic concept, horrible execution.
I know it’s a translation, and that’s why I persevered longer than it really deserved, but the narration was poor - it didn't flow, it had no spark to it, and it meandered far too often. Every time we got inside a character’s head for a flashback or extended bit of introspection, my eyes glazed over and I came out of those dense, dry paragraphs forgetting where I was. The characters were as flat as they were unlikable, so much so that I found myself wishing the Black Rock Witch would just let loose and end it all.
As for the concept of Black Spring and project Hex itself, I give Thomas Olde Heuvelt full credit for trying to bring several classic horror tropes into the 21st century, but the attempt just didn’t work for me. There were far too many leaps of logic required to make the town work, and far too little understanding of the human condition to make the project believable - everything that was happening to ‘break’ the story to the world, I would have expected decades ago, and I can’t believe the government wouldn’t take more drastic measures to keep new people out.
As for the Black Rock Witch, she was a cool concept with a great backstory. I found myself wanting to know more about who she was, about what really happened to her son, how she came back to curse the town, and where the original settlers went. Like the story of the Roanoke Colony, it was the mystery and the speculation that made her tale so compelling. As much as I appreciated what Heuvelt was trying to do with his reversal of the trope, the story that reminded me that horror works best when the monsters are allowed to lurk in the shadows and used sparingly to maximize their impact - somewhere between Boone's stinginess and Heuvelt's overindulgence.
I admit, I skimmed a good chunk of the second half, just to see how it ended . . . but the final few chapters did nothing to redeem the book. Disappointing.
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published April 26th 2016 by Tom Doherty Associates (USA)
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of these titles from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my reviews.