ARC Review – ‘Zero Day’ by Ezekiel Boone

Title: Zero Day
Author: Ezekiel Boone
Genre:  Horror, Science-Fiction
Date of Publication: 27th February, 2018
Page Count: 336 pages (hardcover)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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In the thrilling, nerve-wracking finale of Ezekiel Boone’s “hair-raising” (Parade) Hatching series, the United States goes to war against the queen spiders that threaten to overtake the human race forever.

The world is on the brink of apocalypse. Zero Day has come.

The only thing more terrifying than millions of spiders is the realization that those spiders work as one. But among the government, there is dissent: do we try to kill all of the spiders, or do we gamble on Professor Guyer’s theory that we need to kill only the queens?

For President Stephanie Pilgrim, it’s an easy answer. She’s gone as far as she can—more than two dozen American cities hit with tactical nukes, the country torn asunder—and the only answer is to believe in Professor Guyer. Unfortunately, Ben Broussard and the military men who follow him don’t agree, and Pilgrim, Guyer, and the loyal members of the government have to flee, leaving the question: what’s more dangerous, the spiders or ourselves?

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I was so excited to read this, you would not believe my hysteria when I got my hands on an advance copy, I nearly hit the roof with SHEER JOY. And thankfully, this lived up to expectations! If only I had been able to pace myself instead of staying up past midnight to devour it, but I had zero willpower, it was so enthralling that I couldn’t stop reading!

First things first, this is the 3rd in The Hatching trilogy – if you haven’t read the first two, this isn’t going to be accessible to you at all. And why would you WANT to skip the glorious madness and arachnid chaos, I don’t even know!

Second, there are a lot of characters to keep straight as the story is told in the third person from many perspectives, including but not limited to the scientist in charge of investigating the spider crisis, the President’s Chief of Staff, an FBI agent who originally discovered one of the first casualties on American soil, two survivalists who tinker with home-made equipment that may be of use in the battle against the spiders, a couple and a grandfather on a remote island, Prophet Bobby Higgs….and these are just the perspectives that recur throughout the novel! There are several other one-and-done chapters from random characters in different parts of the world, giving us a small insight into what civilians and soldiers make of the spiderpocalypse and how they’re coping.

Kudos to the author for being able to endear 99% of this large and sprawling cast to me near-instantaneously and make me root for their survival; normally in horror books, I thrive on rooting against people and wanting them to die, but this trilogy had me doing the exact opposite! The prologue introduces us to astronauts returning from space and we never hear from them again, which was a shame because just in a few short pages, I was interested in this crew and enjoyed their perspective on returning from a triumphant mission to Mars, expecting parades and fanfare, but being greeted by darkness and death and man-eating spiders (total buzzkill). I really loved the creative and unlikely choices that the author made on whose headspace to feature, I found it riveting!

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That said, I have to admit that not all of these characters’ chapters contribute to moving the plot forward, and that there is probably some merit to the opinion that they could’ve been trimmed down to focus more on the action instead of how Thuy’s pregnancy was proceeding or how Mike was getting on with his ex-wife and her new partner. Prophet Bobby Higgs was an odd choice to bring back – I thought his storyline was going somewhere, but it ended abruptly; I didn’t mind him being unceremoniously booted off-page, but there were call-backs to his plot in Skitter that I could barely recall, and it seemed a waste of effort to remind us of his personal issues with no pay-off. (perhaps this was an attempt at trope subversion, in which case I heartily applaud the decision not to bring a religious cult into the series because brainwashed cult followers are a DNW)

A common criticism that I’ve read in other reviews is that for a book about spiders terrorizing our planet, there isn’t a lot of on-page clashes with said spiders – and that really took me aback because I  hadn’t even noticed. There are a few chapters from a spider queen’s POV which may be why I didn’t really register the lack of spider clashes because these intermittent peeks into her mind kept the threat active and had me on edge waiting for the inevitable battle.

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Basically, if you’re expecting unrelenting spider shenanigans, you may be disappointed because this book, in contrast to its predecessors, is more interested in what the humans are up to and their conflicts with each other (see: military coup) and their plans to eradicate the spiders. This is book 3 and I’ve grown attached to the characters that I’ve been following through The Hatching and Skitter, so (aside from Prophet Bobby Higgs whose POV is the only one I found to be useless and boring) I was more than happy to keep dipping back into each person’s head and see how they were doing.

I actually enjoyed the politicking and seeing the military vs presidential factions and the bloodshed over their difference of opinion on how best to handle this crisis. The spiders presented the obvious conflict, but people turning on each other was just as interesting to me and I found an equal amount of tension in waiting to see how that would pan out. Often humanity is its own worst enemy and I thought it was very true to real life that we might end up dooming ourselves in a frenzied response to the spiderpocalypse.

Perhaps the ending was a little anti-climactic, as even I who ardently loves this series can see that it was a tad too simple and it doesn’t feel that realistic that more people didn’t die along the way to the thrilling conclusion. But I don’t really care, tbh, because as I said, I loved pretty much all the characters and didn’t want ANYONE to die, so I’m not going to be critical about how there weren’t enough deaths!

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This was a wild roller-coaster of an experience and I enjoyed every moment. Fans of dark and gritty books may not find it as satisfying since it’s low on the body count and perhaps overly optimistic, but it suited me perfectly as a fun escapist read. I look forward to more from Ezekiel Boone, hopefully sooner rather than later because I need a new adrenaline fix ASAP!

IN SHORT

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Catnip:

Excellent writing, sympathetic and easy to root for characters, tense and thrilling plot. This was a rewarding conclusion to the series and an immensely satisfying read.

 

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Pet hates:

Bea was completely pointless as her whole existence was tied to being a pain in the ass to Pierre. Her shrill and shrewish behavior was without context and a waste of time.

 

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Personal Rating:

5 out of 5 kitties recommend this book!

 

 

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy free from Atria/Emily Bestler Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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