The Hatching: A Novel (The Hatching Series), by Ezekiel Boone
I zoomed along with this book, enjoying the story and the writing, until the last few dozen pages where it irritated the hell out of me.
Trilogies and series books have become a publishing necessity these days. With thousands of books published each year book buyers have become naturally skittish about trying out new authors. Once an author develops a hit it’s a different story. Good books are referred by friends, librarians, reviews, and other means and a book will take on its own momentum. Meanwhile, once an author finds a mojo publishers love nothing more than encouraging that author to produce more in the same theme or with the same characters. Among mystery writers the first I remember noticing was Sue Grafton starting with A is for Alibi. She’s now up to Y and who knows what she does after Z. Maybe she’ll take on diacritics. Janet Evanovich is one of many following that tradition with her numbered Stephanie Plum books. And to be fair, the tradition goes back further than Arthur Conan Doyle with Sherlock Holmes. A loveable character or theme can be a gold mine for authors and publishers.
Despite being part of a series these books have something in common: A beginning, a middle, and a satisfying end. Even with Tolkien each LOTR book can be read and enjoyed as a piece. Each volume in the trilogy stands on its own. This experience is what Ezekiel Boone and his publisher cheat us out of with The Hatching (to which, as nearly every book seems to add for gravitas, they added :A Novel) by creating a book with an intentionally squishy ending.
It’s all the more irritating as it’s a good book. It reminded me a bit of Michael Crichton or Stephen King, stitching together episodic moments from a variety of characters. The main plot is that an ancient and blood-thirsty variety of spiders has managed to hatch again after nearly 10,000 years of dormancy. Among the characters we meet are an FBI agent who finds one of the spiders after a plane from South America crashes near a school, an entomologist who specializes in spiders and who also (luckily) is the ex-wife of the Chief of Staff for the first female president, and a female Marine sergeant tasked with helping keep a city under quarantine. They’re good characters with more-than-average depth. The story is interesting and the science stretched but credible. The pace is nice and the spiders are icky and interesting. Then the book closes with a “tune in next episode” feeling without really coming to a catharsis on anything, instead leaving a series of epilogues with all the characters as if it were the close of the Batman TV series.
The brain needs harmony. When I was taking music classes in college I would watch musicians cringe when a teacher would stop a group a few bars before returning to the root note. If the music was in C you could hear students quietly humming a C while the teacher talked just to get that sense of resolution. The same is true in a book. You’ve invested time in a set of characters, lived with them through their problems and adventures, and expect a sense of resolution at the end. It doesn’t have to be 100%. We know Stephanie Plum will never choose between her two love interests. A continuing thread is different from a cliff-hanger. I doubt I’ll spend money on the next book to find out if Boone has cleaned up his act.