who needs giant carnivorous spiders when you have a haunted house, an AI gone rogue, spooky twins, unresolved grudges, and murrrrderrrrrrr? well, okay, i still need giant carnivorous spiders (in my reading), but this is also pretty rad! it’s a big fat SF/horror novel that’s like 2001: A Space Odyssey meets The Shining meets Black Mirror meets, i dunno – Jurassic Park? something riddled with hubris, you choose.
two nerds View Spoiler »let’s say two for now « Hide Spoiler spend a couple of their youthfully idealistic years living together in a tiny cabin on the grounds of a decaying mansion with an unsavory past, where they code furiously day and night; freezing in the winter, living on ramen and cereal, trying to create a siri-but-better companion that will make their names and fortunes. alas, they have a falling out over a girl and part ways.
ten-and-change years later, billy is still married to the girl – emily, but is deeply in debt and newly, fragilly sober, while shawn has turned some of what they developed together in that cabin into a multibillion-dollar company, having rewritten his personal and professional history to exclude billy. he’s still pining for emily, and he has used a portion of his billions towards the restoration of that decaying mansion; buying up the surrounding town and turning it into a rich guy playground. he’s arrogant, used to getting what he wants, and so, so close to having created (or having paid for the creation of) nellie, the kinda-sorta AI he and billy had been working on all those years ago. so shawn makes billy an offer he’d be a fool to turn down – his debts erased and his financial problems eliminated forever as long as he comes to stay in the mansion (o and hey, bring emily!) and take a look at nellie and sort out her bugs. because nellie is buggin’.
obviously, billy is in need of the money, but the challenge of finally bringing nellie to ‘life’ is just as big a temptation, so although both billy and emily are wary of what will happen when the three of them meet up again, they make the trip, preparing themselves for some awkwardness and maybe some raised voices.
which happens, sure, but not to worry, because what follows will be SO MUCH WORSE THAN THAT!
because nellie’s “bugs” go beyond some extraneous or misapplied code and things very quickly begin to escalate from odd to creepy to dangerous to AAAAAHHHHH!!!
this one hooked me early and while i was never scared-scared, there were plenty of smart, spoooooky choices that kept me turning pages quickly and delightedly.
one of the things that made boone’s hatching series so much better than some of the other “animals run amok” romps i’ve read was that he actually took the time to develop his characters. sure, plenty of them were developed only to immediately become spider-feasts, but it’s a lot more fun to read about defined characters getting eaten by spiders than “stereotype #1” or “stereotype #2” suffering the same fate.
this has the same attentiveness to character development, with backstory and credible motivations and layers. “rich asshole with tragic past” isn’t the newest trope on the block, but the details of that past are well done, including one scene that made even me wince.
it’s got an intensifying build and great atmosphere – isolated house in the middle of nowhere, snow blizzarding down, secret tunnels, little-girl-twins, which everyone knows are the creepiest twins of all, and secrets, secrets secrets.
it’s great spooky fun, and for all of you people who were too itchy-scared of spiders to read the trilogy, maybe try this one!
persistence pays off! after entering numerous giveaways every day on here, making me an every-day loser, i have somehow won three in one week! is everyone else on vacation? doesn’t matter, i win!
THIS IS THE ONE THAT EXCITES ME MOST OF ALL!
maybe no spiders, but haunted house’ll do!!
thank you gr giveaway angels!
now i just need the resume-angels to get off their asses, because i’m also an every-day loser in that department. i am willing to work in a haunted house full of spiders at this point.