Came a Spider (UK: Futura, 1978)
Tagline: "A chilling masterpiece of
Ah, spiders, the mother of all atavistic
nightmares, stalking their prey on eight hairy
legs. Let's face it, very few of us are
comfortable with them. Some of us are terrified of them. Most are
offended by their presence. It's all very silly, of course, for most
spiders (yes, even the big ones) are perfectly harmless and eat
many times their own body weight in mosquitoes and other pests
every summer. But that's spiders in the real world, in the shadowy
world of horror fiction it's a little bit different. Came a Spider was
Edward Levy's first book and was even a New York Times
bestseller...pretty damn impressive for a pulp horror novel! His
second book, The Beast Within was made into a pretty cool cult
horror film and bears looking at another time. But for now...spiders.
Let's put Came a Spider under the magnifying glass and see if it's
"Across his face, in his hair, and down his back onto his chest was a
multitude of small, black, hairy spiders. They were everywhere.
Some were glistening wet, leaving little blood-red smears as they
crawled across the boy's face and down onto the pillow. Some were
obviously feeding on his blood.
Interesting, though not terribly evocative. Let's look a little closer:
She could feel the creatures moving and biting and tearing at her.
She could hear them; hear the horrible sucking sounds they made;
knew they were feeding--on her!
I have to admit, the descriptions could be a bit better, a little more
'wet' to ground the reader in the organic horror of what's
happening. But I am a stickler sometimes. Let's get to the plot. A
kid named Lee Miller goes out hunting in the desert with his new
.22 and discovers a huge spider near a government facility with a
high chainlink fence around it and NO TRESPASSING signs
posted everywhere. The spider bites him. He gets sick. His dad
finds him and brings him home. He continues to get sicker and
sicker and the local sawbones does everything to make the kid well
(except put him in the hospital where he belongs). Then one day,
they find Lee in a pool of blood on his bed with spiders all over him.
Bad news. An autopsy reveals that when the spider bit the kid, it
injected its fertilized eggs into him and they settled into his kidneys
where they ate their way out. Ouch. Soon, the spiders are
swarming everywhere. They attack a zoo, infest a movie theater,
feast on two boys in a cave, and, ultimately, descend upon LA for
some real feeding, making the storm drains beneath the streets
their lair...kind of like the giant ants in Them did. The only ones
who stand in their way is an overweight, fatigued homicide
detective and a couple scientists, Dr. Harold Benjamin and Dr.
Christine Selby (the former who developed them accidentally as
part of a secret government project). After several attempts at
spraying the sewers with pesticide fail (the exterminators become
spider food), a new attempt is made to kill them by leading cows
infected with a virus down into the sewers and letting the spiders
feed on them.
Pros: Great characters. I loved poor overworked cop McNeal. And
Dr. Benjamin and Dr. Selby falling in love was just the perfect
touch, the arachnologist and entomologist coming together with
sort of a geeky, easy love separates the depth of this book from the
pack. Well done.
Cons: I hate to compare this one with Spiders by Richard Lewis,
but I'm afraid I must. Spiders had much better gruesome spider
attacks (except for the spiderlings swarming out of the kid's mouth),
but the characters didn't have the depth of Came a Spider.
Overall: This is a good book. Very readable, Levy keeps things
moving and although he dishes out minimal gore, the pacing and
dead-on characterizations make up for it. Nowhere near perfect, but
fun all the same.
Four bloody skulls out of five.
Our next Guilty Pleasure:
"They're back from the grave and ready to party!" (huh??)