Review: Zero Day (The Hatching #3) by Ezekiel Boone

Zero Day: A Novel (The Hatching Series)
By Ezekiel Boone
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ezekiel Boone draws his globe-trotting spider apocalypse trilogy to a close with Zero Day, wrapping things up with pyrotechnic flair. In the aftermath of The Spanish Protocol, large portions of the USA are wrecked beyond repair and the last-ditch effort to halt Spidergeddon have failed. Between the President, a team of scientists and engineers, and soldiers on the front-lines, the threat of these ancient, man-eating arachnids is sketched in with a few extra layers and a couple more wrinkles, but the focus is keenly on the people and a lot of their people problems. This, sadly, was my greatest hindrance in enjoying the book more. And don't get me wrong, I liked Zero Day, but I had higher expectations than this book could deliver.

While some of the trouble Boone's large cast runs into are certainly interesting, such as a military coup early on, others are less so. In one instance, we see a military unit stuck in traffic as they try to get their VIP engineers to a Radio Shack (because apparently there are still Radio Shacks around), and then make a stop for frozen yogurt. I kept waiting for a massive wave of spiders to wreck havoc with the vanilla custard and sprinkles, but sadly that never happened. And that, for me, is the biggest deficit in Zero Day - where the heck are the spiders? We hear a lot about the spiders, but we don't often get to see them. We're reminded pretty frequently about what a massive threat they are, but we rarely get to see the dangers they pose.

In book one, The Hatching, we got all kinds of spider mayhem and it was terrific. Skitter put a pause on the action and shoved the spiders into the background while the stage was set set for Zero Day. And along comes Zero Day, but the spiders are still mostly an afterthought. I wanted a massive arachnid apocalypse, with spiders and gore and mayhem galore. I wanted my Kindle to be dripping ichor! What I got were a lot of talking heads before a small spider attack lands around the 50% mark, and then all goes quiet again. Boone teases us with these horrors in small, glimmering fragments, but never fully delivers. By the time we get some serious action, the book is 80% done with.

I'll tell you what, though - that scene that kicks off the book's short shrifted and too easily resolved climax? Holy crap, is it ever a beautiful, creepy, crazy crawly sequence. That chapter right there, that's what I had wanted this whole book to be. It was fantastic. It was also, by then, a bit too little, too late. For the third book in a series about the spider apocalypse, I wanted more than teases to this whole sordid affair. I wanted way more spider attacks than could be delivered in, what amounted to, less than the book's final quarter. Where were all the spiders, damnit?! After the quiet interlude of Skitter, this sucker should have been wall-to-wall spider mayhem.

And yet, despite the large absence of arachnid horror, Boone still manages to create a compulsive page-turner, even if it promises far more than it delivers. The writing is crisp and propulsive, the pacing rapid-fire, which ultimately makes Zero Day an engaging read. The military coup is well done and interesting and the brief segments of spider attacks are fantastic. And even if the large cast of characters are not all well-served in this title, Boone at least gives the survivors a nice send-off by book's end. Zero Day, mostly, is a sweet, tidy finish to an otherwise fairly uneven trilogy.

[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]

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Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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