The Hatching: A Great Expectations Review…

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The cover of today’s book carries a warning that it is “the most terrifying thriller you’ll read this year”, which is a pretty big call in my opinion.  Nevertheless, I was prepared to take The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone at face value and had major expectations for the scariness of the reading journey on which I was about to embark.  With a nod of thanks to Hachette Australia for providing the shelf with a copy of the book, we immediately turned to Goodreads to find out more about the story:

A local guide is leading wealthy tourists through a forest in Peru when a strange, black, skittering mass engulfs him and most of the party. FBI Agent Mike Rich is on a routine stakeout in Minneapolis when he’s suddenly called by the director himself to investigate a mysterious plane crash. A scientist studying earthquakes in India registers an unprecedented pattern in local seismic readings. The US president, her defence and national security advisers and her chief of staff are dumped into crisis mode when China “accidentally” drops a nuclear bomb on a desolate region of its own country. As such unsettling occurrences mount, the president’s old friend (and her chief of staff’s ex-wife), spider expert Melanie Guyer, receives a box at her lab at American University that contains an ancient egg unearthed at a South American dig.

So begins The Hatching, the hair-raising saga of a single week in which an ancient, frighteningly predatory species of spider re-emerges in force. When the unusual egg in Melanie Guyer’s lab begins to vibrate and crack, she finds herself at the epicentre of this apocalyptic natural disaster. Working closely with her ex-husband and his very powerful boss, she has to find some way to stem the brutal tide of man-eating arachnids.

the hatching

What I Expected:

*the most terrifying thriller I would read this year

*an overwhelming sense of creepiness exuding from the sounds, sights and … more sounds…of thousands of spiders and their equally numerous and leggy offspring, intent on devouring humanity

*an almost unbearable level of suspense and a plot that rolled along at breakneck speed

What I Got:

*spiders that didn’t seem nearly as scary as those we currently have living in our houses here in Australia

*a ridiculous level of detail regarding characters’ sex lives and relationships

*a remarkably slow story, told from multiple viewpoints in a narrative style that could only be described as “mostly filler” and a reasonably predictable ending

So you may have noticed from the above that I wasn’t particularly riveted by The Hatching.  Far from being the most terrifying thriller I have read this year, it didn’t even make it into the “most terrifying thriller I’ve read this WEEK” spot, which was taken by YA post-apocalyptic, plague-fest, Remade.  All the elements were there for a really monstrous story – Killer spiders! Global panic! Governments turning on their own citizens! – but the execution was ham-fisted and unimaginative and I couldn’t get over the feeling that this type of story has been done numerous times before and that this offering didn’t add much to the killer animal/insect genre of horror.

One of the biggest problems I had with the book was the amount of unnecessary detail throughout.  The story is told from multiple alternating viewpoints – a style I normally enjoy – but we are subjected to enormous amounts of back story, mostly related to the sex lives of the characters, bizarrely, which seemed to have little or no relevance to the matter at hand – namely, escaping from ravenous spiders.  There is a real undercurrent of unnecessary smut going on in this book and I just couldn’t figure out why the editor let it all go through.  Almost every single character is engaging in some sort of sexual escapade – the professor sleeping with her student, the tour guide hoping to cheat on his girlfriend (who is cheating on him) with one of the supermodel concubines of a big fat rich man using his services….there’s even a couple called…wait for it…Fanny and Dick.

I kid you not.

I find it hard to believe that NO ONE else noted all these weirdly misplaced sexy goings-on during the editing of this book.  I’m no prude (well, I’m a bit of a prude to be honest), but I could not for the life of me figure out why all this relationship stuff was included in what was supposed to be a thriller, because it did nothing for me but slow the pace and distract away from the main premise – killer spiders!

The only characters seemingly not embroiled in some kind of sexual fiasco is a group of doomsday preppers, but once again, their sections of the story really didn’t add much to the whole shebang, given the fact that they are safely holed up in their doomsday bunkers.  In fact, most of the characters were so fundamentally unlikeable that I wouldn’t much have minded if the spiders won the day.

***MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT FOR THE NEXT PARAGRAPH!!!***

Despite my initial dislike for the story, I pushed on and eventually came to the end – and even that cheesed me off.  There is a point at which a whole bunch of dormant spiders have set up shop in a stadium and someone suggests the obvious solution – consigning the whole structure to the cleansing breath of hot, melty fire.  Strangely enough, the protagonists decide NOT to go with the whole “burn it down” solution and instead decide to watch for a while to see what happens.  And that, my friends, is why we are going to be burdened with a sequel to this not-particularly-well-constructed “thriller”.

***SPOILER ALERT OVER – NORMAL SERVICE ABOUT TO RESUME!***

As you can probably tell, I was massively disappointed with the execution of what could have been a really chilling tale.  Coming, as I do, from a spider-infested continent, I am well aware of how terrifying spiders can be (especially when they unexpectedly show up on your windscreen while you’re driving), but the amount of distracting filler in this book rendered any sense of suspense or fear non-existent for me.

Clearly, this was not the most terrifying thriller I will read this year, but do not let my cranky rantings put you off having at it if you’re keen.  You might find it scares you right out of your pants!  If so, you’ll be in good company, as most of the characters in this book seem to spend quite a bit of time engaging in pants-free activity.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

Tripping Back Blue: A Great Expectations Review..

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I should probably start by saying that this is more of a “Hopeful Expectations” review because I didn’t have great expectations upon discovering today’s book, but rather hopes that it would be an unusual piece of writing in the YA genre.  Happily, I can say that my expectations were mostly met – hooray!

So what is today’s book?   Tripping Back Blue by Kara Storti, which we gratefully received from Walker Books Australia for review.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Finn is a 17-year-old full of paradoxes. He’s a drug dealer, but he’s scoring money to send his twin sister to Harvard. He’s desperate to shoot up even though he’s the most popular kid in Dammertown. He’s a philosopher and orator who’s failing all his classes. The only time he finds peace is when he’s bird-watching. Finn’s life begins to spiral out of control, until he discovers a miracle drug called indigo. Finn is convinced that the drug is the way out of everything broken in his life. But is it really as magical as it seems?

tripping back blue

What I Expected:

Initially, before reading some reviews of this one, I expected a typical “teenager-struggling-with-drugs-story” that happened to have an extremely pretty cover.  On reading a few reviews and finding out that the drug causes users to relive their happiest memories, AND that one of the major characters is an old lady who eventually befriends Finn, I began to get interested.  With these two tidbits of information in hand, I began to hope that this book would blend a bit of fantasy or magical realism with the drudgery of drug use and lift an average story to something unusual and enticing.

What I Got:

Overall, I’m happy to say, I got exactly what I expected.  Perhaps not to the extent that I would have liked, but certainly the base elements of my expectations were all present.  There is an interesting and somewhat volatile relationship between Finn and the old lady, Orah, that drives the indigo plotline.  There is plenty of soul-searching (under-the-influence soul-searching, but still…) from Finn as to whether what he is doing is right, wrong or outside the bounds of morality all together.  The ending is unexpectedly action packed and violent and carries a real atmosphere of danger and confusion.  There were also some interesting twists on the “reliving your happiest memory” device, as the drug doesn’t always work as it is expected to, for Finn at least, as well as an in-depth exploration of human nature, as every character here is flawed in some way and no one is purely evil or pristine.

For the most part, then, I enjoyed this read.  I am not a fan of drug use, talk about drug use, deep explorations of the user’s mind etc (either in real life or fiction) and there was a lot more of this in the story than I initially expected.  Admittedly, all the reviews I read mentioned this and it’s hinted at in the blurb, so I shouldn’t complain.  I was hoping for a little more of the magical realism element around the creation and distribution of indigo, but the story doesn’t suffer particularly for the lack of it.  The segues into talk about birds and random animal facts were a diverting inclusion and fleshed Finn’s character out a bit.

Would I read this book again? Probably not.  Am I glad I ran across it? Definitely.  Is it a standout of the genre? Not really, but it certainly has some original touches that make it worth a look if you enjoy contemporary YA that doesn’t shy away from difficult social issues such as drug use, poverty and family violence.  Plus, you might learn something interesting about birds.

Until next time,

Bruce

Great Expectations…Slightly Dashed: Just My Type…

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GREAT (1)Welcome to a brand new feature that I just made up this minute – the Great Expectations review!  Sometimes you approach a book with very specific expectations about what a book is going to be.  Sometimes these expectations are met, and sometimes not.  Regardless, the expectations often shape the reading experience.  So from now on, if there’s a book that inspires certain expectations in me, I will bust out a “Great Expectations” review, to highlight how the actual reading experience differed from what I thought it was going to be.

Long-winded enough explanation for you?  Great, let’s get on with it.  Today’s book is Just My Type: Understanding Personality Profiles by Michael J Rosen and Daniel Carlson.  I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Personality tests have become increasingly popular in the digital age. Examine a wide variety of online personality assessments, and learn how to distinguish useful applications from biased typecasting.

just my type

What I Expected:

An in-depth foray into the often hilarious, always conversation-worthy topic of personality testing, possibly including fun, interactive examples of personality tests for readers to try out on their friends. Or themselves.

What I Got:

An 80-ish page brief overview of all the major historical and modern means of personality testing, with a few snippets of some of the tests here and there.

I’ve read a number of textbooks and articles throughout my years of tertiary study focusing on the nature of personality, and methods of personality profiling.  One memorable non-study-related read on the topic I can recommend is Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You by Sam Gosling.  I was really hoping that Just My Type would be a similarly humorous and entertaining read.

It wasn’t.

While the information provided in the book is accurate, informative and pitched perfectly at those who need an overview or starting point for further research in the area of personality profiling, I was somewhat disappointed that it wasn’t longer and didn’t provide larger excerpts from the various personality testing devices that were covered.  I was hoping for a book that would give me the tools to publicly wax lyrical on the undesirable personality traits of those sitting opposite me at a dinner party, based on sound pseudo-scientific historical practices, or, if it came to it, up-to-the-minute psychological theories.

Despite my disappointment at the fact that the book is clearly lacking in features to assist the reader to embarrass their friends and bring low their enemies, if you are looking for an accessible, concise, historical overview of the psychological theories about what the personality is, how it develops, how it can be defined using interesting tests and how these tests can be used and misused to label individuals and subdue troublemakers, then I would heartily recommend Just My Type to you.

  alphabet soup challenge 2016** I’m submitting this title for the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge **

Until next time,

Bruce