After reading Ryan C. Thomas’s shocking (even to a jaded horror reviewer) The Summer I Died, I was excited to see his take on a creature feature with salticidae, better known as jumping spiders. The story begins on a remote mountainside in the Congo with a mining expedition led by wealthy heiress Janet Beaudette. As the team of miners she leads begin blasting in search of gold deposits within the mountain, they release giant jumping spiders that had been encased within the mountain. We are then introduced to a number of groups in the immediate area: Janet and her employee Gellis; photographer Derek, journalist Jack and their guide Banga; local tribesman Musa and son Shumba; and rebel militia forces. We follow their quests for survival.
Despite the near immediate arrival of the giant spiders, I found that there wasn’t a huge amount of tension. Although the spiders are incredibly powerful and to have a run in with them means death, they lacked the creep factor than you get from smaller but equally deadly versions. You see them coming and you run. There is no danger from the unseen, which I sorely missed. Particularly effective though, was the very chilling and vivid scene depicting the remains of the spiders’ battle with the river hippos. I was also impressed with the scene where Janet and Gellis stumbled across the spiders nest. The book is gruesome in places but never reaches the visceral violence found in The Summer I Died. The kills from the spiders were all the same and became somewhat bland after the first few incidents. Despite the detailed descriptions of the spiders throughout the book, mandibles, fangs and poison galore, the size of them just negated any scares for me.
The guides and tribesman were the most interesting characters in the book, with engaging stories and life experiences. Janet and her spoiled, elitist/racist attitude wore thin, and the wise-cracking journalists seemed almost like caricatures and were hard to identify with on a human level. The theme about the villainous white man exploiting nature and resources is a little cliché, but not untrue. The discussions of the militia and the political situation that formed the backdrop of the story were more interesting. The atrocities that the GRC rebel militia and other groups perpetrate on native tribes seemed much worse than the spiders.
The majority of the book involved people running from the spiders on the mountain or the surrounding jungle. It quickly became all too familiar and just got a bit stale. I did enjoy the finale when all the separate groups we’d been reading about finally ran into each other for the climax. Sorry to say that on the whole, I can’t really recommend this.
Book Cover Blurb:
When the Beaudette mining company blows open a mountain deep in the Congo, they release something that puts man on the bottom of the food chain. Salticids, more commonly known as jumping spiders, mutated and enlarged to staggering sizes through millennia of underground chemical anomalies. With eight massive legs, eyes that can see 360 degree, and the ability to leap thousands of feet at once, there is no escaping these dangerous hunters.
Which is a very bad thing for Janet Beaudette and her mining crew, now forced to escape into the mountain itself, all the while chased by these nightmares. The only way to escape is to make it down to the river below where they can be reached by helicopter, but first they must traverse the dangerous tunnels and pits, which are crawling with more giant spiders.
Meanwhile, travel journalists Jack and Derek are also deep in the jungle writing a story about the Congo. Accompanied by a native guide with a dark past, they soon stumble onto a mystery involving giant webs and missing wildlife, only to realize they are being hunted.
But of course the Congo holds many terrors, and giant spiders, horrendous as they are, are merely instinctual creatures. Even more dangerous is the Snake Man, who controls the Lost Boys. When this murdering, kidnapping, raping, black magic-practicing leader of the local militia hears that the Beaudette Mining Company is excavating mountains without his permission, he decides it’s time to teach Janet and her people a lesson in local politics. He won’t stop until he drinks their blood and wears their bones.