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Skitter by Ezekiel Boone

Published by Atria/Emily Bestler Books on May 2, 2017

I read Skitter without realizing that it is the second novel in a series, following on the heels of The Hatching. Maybe I should pay more attention to book descriptions, but Skitter is quite easy to follow, even without reading the first novel. It cannot be read as a stand-alone novel, however, because it ends in mid-action, leaving the plot entirely unresolved.

Skitter starts as an amusing “the apocalypse is coming” story and morphs into an amusing “the apocalypse is here” story. The apocalypse involves an invasion of man-eating spiders. This is the kind of apocalyptic novel in which people respond to a crisis by engaging in ridiculous behavior. In other words, it seems realistic.

The president, Stephanie Pilgrim, needs to make some hard decisions about the spread of the spiders, but she has the support of presidential adviser Manny Walchuck, with whom she is cheating on her husband. She has less support from the military, with its inevitable “nuke ‘em” advice, but there are no easy choices.

At the NIH, Melanie Gruyer has become the most important woman in the world. She knows a lot about how spiders move, although she doesn’t know why millions of them have started eating people. Melanie is the novel’s touchstone of normalcy.

In quarantined Los Angeles, Bobby Higgs has set himself up as a prophet, ranting against the government and enforcing order with an army of thugs. Of course, his true agenda is to get out of LA before he’s eaten by spiders.

Mike Rich is an FBI agent in Minneapolis until the FBI abandons Minneapolis. He frets about keeping his daughter safe in an unsafe world. The spiders have made that more difficult.

A group of intelligent misfits think they have a solution to the spiders. Their idea needs some refinement, to say the least.

There are a bunch … and I mean a bunch … of other characters. Some die. Some survive, presumably to reappear in the next novel. One or two survive but probably wish they hadn’t … or they would if they were still capable of thinking like a human. Most of the action takes place in a decimated America but spiders are also a problem in Japan, Peru, Berlin, Oslo, and other places the reader at least briefly visits. Me, I’d grab a parka and head to Alaska in the hope that the spiders will become dormant in the permafrost.

There are some very funny background moments in Skitter, such as the description of a truck stop that is emblematic of Midwestern fast food Americana. But like many amusing novels, Skitter makes a serious point. The excrement may well hit the fan (the world seems to be moving in that direction, doesn’t it?), but it won’t be the nutty survivalists and preppers who save us, because (1) they only care about saving themselves and (2) you can’t plan for everything. Rational thought and a willingness to work together offer the best hope for enduring a crisis. Arming yourself with shotguns and nutrition bars and retreating to a shack in the woods won’t stop the spiders.

Since apocalyptic fiction is seriously overdone, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Skitter. The story isn’t particularly deep, but it isn’t shallow. It is populated by lively characters and it features a number of unexpected moments. It also left me wanting to read the first and the next book, all of which is enough to earn a recommendation.


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