When I first started reading this book, I loved it. The descriptions were awesome, the pacing clipped right along, the first-person POV was fine, and the monsters were pretty good – for giant spiders. Giant, mutated spiders, in general, don’t scare me – although they probably should, given their power and ruthlessness. I also liked the setting – a cozy, little town in England in the modern era. It felt refreshing.
However, the first sentence of the first chapter has a woman, Chloe, complaining to her boyfriend, Matthew, that she’s gaining weight. Matthew reassures her with some early morning sex. Then Chloe discovers she is pregnant, which, mercifully, explains the mysterious weight gain. But then she gets too fat, too fast. A doctor is consulted who assures the unhappy couple that everything is proceeding normally, but when Matthew bumps into him in a pub later, doc tells a different story – something horrible and strange is happening in town, maybe all over the world. “Look at the women,” the doctor spits. (25)
And from that point on, the story starts to really go downhill.
It wasn’t just the misogynistic venom running through the story and in the survivor’s attitudes and words that bugged me. It was also all the glaring inconsistencies that resulted in so many mysteries that never get solved.
Like, where did all the dogs go? And what killed the cats?
Why were only deaf people and dogs immune to the monsters?
Why were only women the first targets of the spiders, and how did they all get pregnant? (I imagined alien spider spores wafting on the breeze until they detect estrogen on someone’s breath, and then – what? They hang around until you go to the bathroom and then creep inside and up to the uterus? Arrggh.) And did age matter at all, or would they impregnate anything with a uterus – old women, young women, girls, babies?
Why was Katie at first immune to the spiders — and in fact, she seemed to scare the nasty buggers — but then at the end, she gets spider bumps? And why “bumps” now, and not a regular “pregnancy” like the first wave of women?
Why did the smaller, black spiders – presumably male – need male hosts? And how did that work?
Why did human blood act like acid when sprayed on the spiders? And was it any kind of human blood, or only the blood of disabled people?
In addition, the protagonist, Matthew, while coming off sympathetic in the beginning – him being all loving and supportive of his grotesquely fat girlfriend – soon shows himself to be ready, willing and able to screw all the available women left on the planet. Thank God the little sister, Jane, got eaten by the spider before Matthew got to her. It was so bad that I actually wondered if he were somehow impregnating his girlfriends with the spiders.
I’m not sure if the author started out to write a book designed to reinforce primitive male fear and distrust of women, and the ever-changing female body, but that’s what she ended up with. Despite having some good spider monsters (which may have been surrogates for the mysterious and voracious human female, who knows, this shit is getting too deep for me), this book ended up disappointing the hell out of me.
Pinborough, Sarah, Breeding Ground.New York: Leisure, 2006. Print.