Mark Gillespie’s The Hatching is a frantic and tense horror novel. One that drops us into a reality where a pandemic called ‘The Burn’ has transformed the world. Akin to bad sunburn, the temptation to pick and peel off the dead skin is too much for some. However, the more you scratch and peel off, the closer you come to a transformation. What transformation is that? Well, no-one really knows as those people have become encased in a cocoon and remained that way for some time. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world, governments leaving the cocoons where they lay but enclosed in tanks. Seeing these tanks on the street or in an apartment has become so normal that no-one really acknowledges them anymore.
Everyone lives in fear though. In fear of submitting to ‘The Burn’ and entering a cocoon themselves. Even those few who aren’t affected by ‘The Burn’ are worried about what will happen next.
The meat of this story is told through short segments of video news reports called the ‘Loop’. An ever-rolling news channel that serves to give us the backstory of ‘The Burn’ and the wider detail about how it has affected the world. These segments are intertwined with the main story which surrounds the character of Dani Pellerino. A young and recent divorcee who has decided to restart her singing career by playing her first ever show at a New York nightclub.
It’s at the club, while setting up for the night’s performance, that the cocoons finally begin to hatch. For Dani, her sister Chiara and several of the club’s staff, the party is just about to get started. What emerges from the cocoon’s is both horrifying and terrifying.
This is a great story, kept finger-snapping fast and frantic. The action and the horror make for a tense page-turner but the real draw to keep reading are the characters. Mark Gillespie has crafted some solid ones here, ones you warm to and hope the best for, none so more than Dani. A flawed but strong female lead, one who has spent far too much of her life unhappy and now wants to do something about it. In a way, she has also been in her own cocoon and as the book goes on, will go through her own transformation. Albeit one less horrible and bloody.
The vivid detail in the horror and the descriptive features of the cocoons and what comes out helps enhance the terror embedded in this story. It’s a very addictive read and we can only hope there are more stories in this world to come.
The Hatching (Mark Gillespie)
The Final Score - 8/10