This week’s adventure in Monster Mashing puts us in a small English town, that becomes Breeding Ground, by Sarah Pinborough. While spiders creep me out A LOT, and telepathic mutant spiders that grow inside humans and burst out Alien-style from women’s wombs REALLY creeps me out, there was enough WTF moments in here to diminish the creep factor and make me just shake my head when I was done. Literally. That’s what I did. I closed the book, and shook my head. Then I immediately tried to describe the craziness to my boyfriend, who also got that glazed-over WTF? look too.
The story is vaguely typical. Main character guy Matt is happy with his girlfriend, then she gets pregnant. Things are okay, but she gets fat. Too fat. Too fat to just be pregnant. Then she changes and gets creepy, gross stuff happens, and Matt is out of there. Comes across telepathic mutant spider things, that have apparently burst out of all the women in the town. Eventually he meets up with other survivors, including a young woman with her little sister that are apparently not affected. The try to survive, blah blah, end up at a military compound with some more survivors, everything looks bleak, the weather changes, there are suicides, and murder by mutant spiders, and then male spiders start to appear out of the blue, and then…that’s it. Oh and there’s a deaf dog.
My biggest beef with this story is that there is no reason whatsoever for this to be happening in the first place. It just…happens. The closest thing you get to even a hint of a reason is that the scientist that the survivors meet in the military compound says the reason is genetically-modified food. COME ON. I just can’t buy it. Sure that stuff is scary, and who knows what kind of effect it has and will have on our bodies if we consume mass quantities of it. But growing mutant-spiders that burst out of you then cocoon you from the inside out to eat you? Doesn’t even have a hint of plausibility to me. I would have been more content if there was a hint, even a vague hint, of alien abduction, or a crazy experiment gone wrong, or something from the past coming back all mutated. But I don’t buy into that excuse, and I really hoped the scientist was just being crazy or dumb. But he wasn’t. Oh and I don’t think it explains much about the weather either; the weather suddenly turns almost rain-forest like. It pours tepid water every day and it gets really humid and hot. I’m supposing that these conditions are great for the spiders. But outside of people noticing that the weather is weird, no one makes any kind of connection between the spiders and the weather. None that I saw anyway. Maybe I missed something. I’m not going to reread it to find out.
There were a lot of other things that bothered me, almost too much to get into them all. Matt was apparently a total pimp in this book, starting out with his girlfriend, then moving on to survivor Katie in mere days after his girlfriend gives spider-birth. Then after unfortunateness happens to Katie Matt ends up with Rebecca the deaf lady and gets her preggers.
Add to that the whole deaf-blood-acts-like-acid-to-the-spiders thing, and the fact that no one has a cell phone or a computer (a minor detail to be sure but it still bothered me), and then the male spiders start popping out of all the men that are left except for the old guy George and Matt, our red-blooded virile protagonist that is in perfect heath and should have become a spider incubator with the rest of them. Maybe being intimate with the deaf girl gave him immunity? Who knows. All these questions made my head hurt.
It really sounds like I hated this book. And I did really bitch about it when I was done ( and in the previous paragraphs). But you know, I still read it in two days. When I wasn’t reading it, I thought about where the story was going. And I still got the tenseness of the atmosphere, and the creepiness of the whole thing. Especially the four chapters, when things are just slowly starting to change; watching Chloe’s slow transformation as she grew fatter and changed was more horrifying for me than anything else. So even if, in the end, I was left scratching my head, I do have to admit that it was still an eerie and compelling read. Minus the part about the GM foods.