Skitter is the sequel to The Hatching, one of my favorite books from 2016. The Hatching gave us a spider apocalypse, because getting your face eaten off by zombies just isn’t scary enough. The Hatching jumps around among a seemingly enormous number of POVs, advancing the story and giving us slice-of-life vignettes in equal measure. It’s extraordinarily well done, reminiscent of The Stand and World War Z but exceeding both. Or at least I think that it will, because, unlike those two books, The Hatching was just the opening salvo in a trilogy.
So what’s the verdict after Skitter? No verdict, I’m afraid. Skitter is just the second part. I won’t be able to pass final judgment until I read the last book. And Skitter does suffer under the weight of Second Act Problems. But I haven’t lost faith in the series and story as a whole.
You know the Nazca Lines in Peru? Including that big damn spider? It turns out that the spider at least is there for a reason. (Maybe Boone’s next series will be about the llama apocalypse.) So spiders. And not regular spiders either. Nasty little fuckers who know how to hitch a ride by chewing their way inside your body and hiding out for a bit. Bad news in the age of air travel. So things go sideways and by the time anyone knows what the heck is happening half of China is nuclear glass and hordes of flesh-eating spiders have overrun Los Angeles. And then…the spiders stop. They die by the hundreds and thousands.
So everything is cool, right? Not exactly. One, they left egg sacs all over the place. Two, entomologist Melanie Gruyer is quite certain that the spiders will be back.
And, as will become apparent, the spiders are coming back in a new, even more vicious form.
So Skitter is a bit of that last gasp before the plunge. Humans around the world are frantically scrambling to respond before it’s too late. Maybe that means going door-to-door to destroy egg sacs. Maybe it means firebombing entire cities. Watching good people come to grips with just what they may need to do to get a tourniquet on things is one of the best parts of the books. One of the minor characters is sort of a stereotypical chauvinist military brass. There is a great scene with him and the president Stephanie Pilgrim and the rest in the War Room. I love this. He basically says something along the lines of, “I don’t like you and I don’t think you should be in that chair. And I know you know that and that you don’t like me. I’m telling you this because I’m putting all that BS aside. You need to understand that this is the best possible advice I can give.”
Skitter keeps the format from the first book, rapidly shifting among many, many POVs. The main POVs from the first book are back, and some seemingly marooned from POVs from The Hatching get pulled into the action (such as it is). When well done—and it is—rapidly shifting among POVs really gives an illusion of movement. It makes the book “read” fast. That is particularly valuable here. The entire book is taken up by slowly unraveling the mysteries of the spiders and waiting for the next wave to hit. The slice-of-life vignettes in between help ratchet up the suspense, although there were times I just wanted to shout at Boone to get on with it.
That is my main complaint. That, and that I don’t have the third book in my hands right now. Skitter will work much, much better as a part of the whole.
But for now? Consider me bleeding terrified. Way to up the body horror and make sure I don’t sleep for a couple weeks, buddy. It’s not like we don’t already have enough spiders in Florida.
4 of 5 Stars.
Disclosure: I received a copy of Skitter from the publisher.