The Hatching is not a stand-alone novel but a book in Ezekiel Boone’s three-part series, and that’s something to know from the outset; there isn’t any resolution to the story, at least not in the sense that there’s a definitive rising action and denouement. Instead, The Hatching is all about setup, and Boone’s first novel published under his own name (he’s released under the pseudonym Alexi Zentner previously) finds the author working with a lot of different characters and storylines, all of them working separately and in tandem like the legs of an arachnid. This method of breaking the series into a trilogy doesn’t necessarily work in Boone’s favor, however, and it’s important to make the distinction that there’s more coming in this series.
The Hatching centers around a recent outbreak of spiders; not just your normal everyday spiders, but an ancient kind that like to feast on human flesh and burrow into hosts to leave pulsating egg sacs growing. They’re freakishly hungry, seemingly coughed up from the bowels of the earth and also hatched from an ancient egg sac found at the Nazca Lines. And so Boone provides a host of characters in the novel as they each experience something different in the spider invasion; some – like Dr. Melanie Guyer – become main characters investigating the origin of these spiders, while others – like Aonghas and Thuy – seem to be secondary players with little use to the overarching plot. Each storyline gets its own setting and distinction as The Hatching works through the first phase of the spider infestation.
[pullquote]for this first book, Boone simply has too many extraneous characters adding little depth to the rest of the plot, and that only obfuscates the main point.[/pullquote]
The problem with such a wide and varied cast, though, is that Boone doesn’t have time to allow for equal development of each character. Unfortunately, that means that The Hatching often carries a lot of unnecessary exposition, providing introductions to characters that will either quickly expire in the ensuing chaos or who will stick around without much indication of their usefulness. The aforementioned Aonghas and Thuy, for example, are segmented off from the rest of the group and seem to have little to offer the novel besides some romance and emotional drama. This becomes an issue when The Hatching fails to provide an ending. One would presume that these secondary players will have an important role in the next two novels in the series; but for this first book, Boone simply has too many extraneous characters adding little depth to the rest of the plot, and that only obfuscates the main point.
The Hatching‘s spider theory is well-researched, though, and Boone has certainly done his homework on the science, the Nazca Lines, and the settings behind this story. His human-devouring spiders are gruesome and yet fascinating, mimicking the obsession that Melanie Guyer feels when studying these new creatures. While this novel could be considered more of a first act, the ending sets in motion a new threat moving forward in Boone’s second novel Skitter. That knowledge of more to come should keep readers interested even if the overstuffed cast list doesn’t intrigue.
Even so, one gets the feeling that three novels is stretching what the series can offer. The Hatching is like watching the first quarter of a movie about a massive environmental disaster; all of the requisite parts are here, like the mobilization of the military, the breakdown of human communication, and the panic that inevitably spreads as result of political motivations that hide important secrets from the public. It’s all efficient world-building, but I can’t help but find it a bit generic – and even though The Hatching features an impressive host of characters, they all seem to be cut from the same cloth. Many of them are divorced, surly Type A characters, dedicated to their jobs and seemingly very interested in cheating on their significant others. While The Hatching‘s plot require some of these types, Boone relies on the same character traits too often, to the point where many of their voices sound similar.
The Hatching is a difficult novel to recommend because of these flaws, but if readers can get past some of these prickly patches, they’ll most likely appreciate the gory horror contained within the pages. The book certainly captures a creepy-crawly feeling; it’s just unfortunate that, as part one of this trilogy, Boone relies so much on building up for the rest of the series that The Hatching struggles to capture the reader in its web.