Breeding Ground by Sarah Pinborough (Leisure Books 2006)
Matt and Chloe had a good life and they were happy, she was pregnant with their first baby and he couldn’t believe how lucky he was. That changed very quickly, almost as quickly as his wife did. The changes are subtle at first but then Matt finds Chloe eating raw meat and talking with her friend fifty miles away – without using the phone. Chloe has also developed powers to control Matt, to hold him in place while she gives birth. On the kitchen floor is the dead baby, partially eaten – not by Chloe but by the other thing growing inside her. The last vestige of what was Matt’s wife releases him and he runs.
Bear in mind we’re only up to page 51 and you get a sense of how good this book is going to be. Matt begins to realise his wife isn’t the only woman affected, all the women have become hosts to monsters. In one memorable scene he enters an abandoned café, follows a noise upstairs and finds a man slowly being eaten alive by something with spider like legs. He gets a better look at the creature later on…
“it’s bank of pinprick red eyes glowing angrily as it hissed, long spindly legs pawing at the dull carpet, whatever substance that flowed through its veins almost visible through their revolting milky surface. Its mouth, its two mouths,if they could be called that, clacked wetly as two sets of mandibles mashed into each other…”
Matt eventually meets up with other similarly traumatised men, with their own terrible experiences. Because the creatures look like spiders they name them widows. The men also meet Katie and Jane, sisters who seem to be unaffected by whatever has happened to all the other women. The men are naturally suspicious but Matt convinces them they can’t abandon them, Jane is just a young girl. Along the way they also meet Rebecca, a deaf woman similarly unaffected. The plan is to get out of the town and find a safe place and hopefully other survivors.
They head for Hanstone Park, a military communications base with high electrified fences. They meet other men there, scientists and communications men who reveal the widows are everywhere but there are small pockets of survivors around the country. Wisely I think the author doesn’t go into too much detail of how the widows came to exist, some scientific dabbling in genetically modified crops are mentioned. It doesn’t really matter, the effect is almost apocalyptic and the widows are such hideous creations its enough just to go along with the author for the ride.
‘Breeding Ground’ was a great read, I really enjoyed it – there’s plenty of big nasty spider action, its pretty gory and has enough yuck moments to keep those of us who like yuck moments happy. Big thumbs up from me.
Sarah Pinborough is a British writer. There may be more to it but it seems a shame that our good new horror writers have to get published in America rather than over here. I believe Tim Lebbon is another Brit published by Leisure, though I'm not sure if he has a UK publisher. Leisure Books do loads of horror books in the US – maybe they’re the nasty NEL for the noughties… Shame we can’t do as well.
Intrigued by this and will hunt it down. Yes I do see a lot of stuff published over the pond that we misso ut on and it irritates the hell out of me. This one sounds a good read. Although I doubt it betters Mr Hutson's Breeding Ground.