Friday, 20 November 2009

‘Feeding Ground’ – Sarah Pinborough

Things are always a lot worse when they happen on your doorstep... I love reading horror fiction and part of the appeal there is that the horror is always happening somewhere else. Stephen King’s ‘It’ takes place in a New England town, Brian Keene’s ‘Castaways’ takes place on a seemingly deserted island and there are other examples. I can get into books like these as they’re not based anywhere familiar which means that I can concentrate on the story instead of the implications of what might happen if this was taking place in my town...
That’s not to say that I don’t like the horror a little closer to home as well. Not only does it get even more personal, when you’re reading about it, but then you have to go outside and walk on those streets afterwards... Conrad Williams’ ‘One’ was one of those books (at least when the book got us to London) and the film ’28 Days Later’ had me nervously looking over my shoulder for a couple of days later. Now Sarah Pinborough has come to join those ranks with a tale of terror that takes place only a few miles from my front door...

Blane Gentle-King breaks out of prison to find a London far different to the one he last saw. This is a London clogged with dead bodies and the thick webs of the giant spiders that now stalk the streets. It’s still a London of opportunity though and Blane Gentle-King is a man who knows how to take his chances.
While Blane builds his empire, others are more interested in getting out of London and away from the chaos on its streets. There’s only one way out though and it’s the toughest route of all. An underground station promises a quick escape from the city but it will also take the survivors straight into the feeding ground...

‘Feeding Ground’ takes place on streets that I either drive down or pass by, on my way to work, on the train. There’s nothing like being in close proximity to these places to really bring home the concept of London being invaded by giant spiders! I’ll be watching certain buildings a little more carefully from now on...
All this would be for nothing though if Sarah Pinborough hadn’t come with a decent story to make me feel this way about streets that are generally pretty harmless. It goes without saying that Pinborough certainly came up with the goods...

‘Feeding Ground’ is a novel that takes several different kinds of terror and mixes them all together to come up with a story that has a spine chilling moment for everyone. The spiders take top billing and definitely live up to their status. Nowhere is safe when these guys are on the prowl and the most innocuous of settings can swiftly become a death trap with little or no notice. The moral of the story here is to check everywhere before going anywhere! The constant uncertainty keeps the tension at an almost unbearable level and it’s all credit to Pinborough that she is able to stretch it out for as long as she does, the payoff at the end is always worth it...
What also adds to the terror is that no-one knows the motivations behind the spider’s sudden presence in the city, only that they’re after food. The spiders are truly alien in this respect and not being able to connect with them in any way just makes them scarier...

It’s not just the spiders adding to the terror though; there are plenty of other things too. Pinborough paints a vivid picture of a post-apocalyptic London that has collapsed under pressure and just... stopped. Society is crumbling and little snapshots of this happening not only add to the tension but show us just what humans are capable of once the chips are down (and somehow this is the most terrifying bit of all). While there are moments of individual bravery these only really serve to emphasise just how much is going wrong.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the case of Blane Gentle-King and his attempts to carve something for himself out of the city. Not only do we get to see his gradual slide into insanity but we also see what this means for the people that he comes into contact with; it’s never good and the sheer brutality of this man never ceased to shock me.

If there was one thing that I had an issue with it was the fact that the event the book seemed to be building towards, the encounter in the tunnel was over a lot quicker than I thought it would be. Given that this was set up to be the climax of the book (or so it appeared) I thought there would be a lot more of it...

This is only a small niggle though and one that was easily forgiven seeing how much I enjoyed the rest of the book. There is a prequel, ‘Breeding Ground’, but I haven’t read that and still enjoyed ‘Feeding Ground’ regardless. Here’s a book that worked for me on all levels (and by ‘worked’ I of course mean ‘scared the life out of’!) If you’re after giant spiders eating their way through London then Sarah Pinborough is the writer to take you on that trip.

Nine and a Quarter out of Ten

3 comments:

Mishel said...

I kinda liked Arachnophobia but really didn't like Eight Legged Freaks...giant killer spiders haven't gotten along with me really. But I love the fact this book freaked you out lol

I'm definitely interested in reading it. I can't imagine the book hitting so close to home though =)

Very glad to hear you enjoyed it.

Sarah Pinborough said...

I did complain that the blurb on the back set up a false expectation of that scene (in the original outline there was far more action in the tunnels so they must have been thinking of that), but no one changed the blurb before publication...sigh. ;-)
Thanks for the kind words,
Sarah

Jeanette J said...

Just wanted you to know that after reading your post I went to Amazon.com and ordered both Breeding Ground and Feeding Ground...they sound like my kind of books. I will be taking them on my trip to Jamaica on Dec 6th. Thanks for the review.