Chuck Wendig is one of those writers who make crossing genre lines look effortless. He’s written, among other things, really good science fiction novels (see, for example, the Aftermath trilogy set in the Star Wars universe), top-of-the-line fantasy (the Miriam Black series, for instance), and a fine techno-thriller called Zer0es, which introduced us to FBI agent Hollis Copper.
Copper returns in a supporting role in Invasive, which is a straight-up horror novel as far as I’m concerned. Its central character is Hannah Stander, an FBI consultant – not an agent, as she frequently points out – who is sent to a Hawaiian island where the Icelandic billionaire Einar Geirsson is running a top-secret lab devoted to bioengineering animals for human consumption and other (deliberately less well-defined) purposes.
Hannah’s visit to the lab is no sightseeing tour, though. Recently, in a remote cabin in New York State, a dead man was found…along with thousands of dead ants. These highly dangerous ants, which apparently stripped the man of his skin while he was still alive, have genetic markers that match the markers Geirsson’s people have been using in their biologically tricked-out critters. How did the ants get to rural New York State? Why were they there? Are there more of them? All good questions, all requiring answers as soon as possible.
So: we have an FBI consultant alone on an island with a bunch of geniuses, at least some of whom might have created a new kind of super-deadly ant. Recipe for a creepy-crawly horror story? You’re darned right it is, and oh boy does Wendig write the hell out of it. The book is skin-crawlingly scary. It is visually graphic. It is so intense in places that you need large caps to say it: INTENSE. If you can read the book without feeling like you’ve got ants skittering up your arms or legs – well, if you can do that, then you’re not reading it right. Go back and start again.
There are scenes in this book so stomach-clenchingly suspenseful, so claustrophobic, that you’ll be tempted to hurl the book away from you, just to get some relief – but you won’t be able to. Wendig won’t let you. He’s too good a writer, and, damn him, he doesn’t let the story slow down long enough to give you that convenient pause in the narrative where you can stop reading for a few minutes.
Read Invasive. Just don’t blame me if you get creeped out.
Copyright © David Pitt