Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Book 49

WARNING: The Following Review Contains Frequent References To Giant Arachnids. Arachnophobes Should Skip This One And Trust Me That They Ain't Missing Much

"Funnelweb" by Richard Ryan.

Have ye ever watched a movie and yelled at the screen because the characters are so oblivious to the rules of their genre that they go downstairs in a blackout when there's a killer on the loose to investigate a strange noise? Now imagine that film is a book, and you have "Funnelweb". I've been trying to keep these short to facilitate catching up, but I have to give y'all the plot rundown on this one. There are spoilers in here, but I have to tell you what happens in this book. Please remember; I am making up or exagerrating none of what follows.

A US Nuclear Missile sub (a boomer) is sneaking close to the Australian Pacific shoreline and perving on a New Year's Eve Party when there's a wee accident and a little bit of evil radioactive material gets out into the water. Said material is eaten by a little fishy what dies and is in turn eaten by... funnelweb spiders.

The radioactive stuff makes the spiders really aggressive (and randy) and they kill a couple of partygoers before shagging themselves to death. Then their babies hatch (eating the mums from the inside out) and they're about four times normal size. There're more killings, more shagging spiders and so on until they're about two metres tall. And their venom eats away flesh like acid.

Then everything goes to custard.

The Army are called in and try to stem the tide of evil arachnids, but they have to leave the city (along with hundreds of thousands of refugees). Some bright spark decides the best way to deal with these giant, radioactive spiders is to detonate a neutron bomb over Hyde Park which kills all the spiders above ground but causes the ones below ground to mutate even further. Now they're as a big as a house and if enough of them spit venom on a tank, they can melt the armour.

Then is gets really silly.

While this was definitely a page-turner, it was more out of some sense of horrid fascination that I was reading the book. I just couldn't believe how over the top it was getting. Apparently I missed the point, because a couple of the reviews say it was an exploration of Australia's cultural identity or some such crap. Personally, I thought it was a novel about freakin' great spiders, but what do I know.

However, having said all of that, I did actually enjoy a lot of this book. Like I enjoy fatty food, getting nicely drunk or watching the Resident Evil movies (although that may be unfair to the Resident Evil movies). It was a guilty, brief pleasure that would've been ruined if the novel was even two notches better written. The steady, OTT tone of the prose helped imbue the ridiculous subject matter with a sense of Ed Wood-ish fun. HOLY CRAP! I just hit the nail on the head! This is the kind of book Ed Wood would write. Sincere in its amazing flagrancy and perhaps an object of some sympathy because of it. Like the genuinely upset "hopefuls" from Idol auditions that truly don't know how crap they are.

two and a half mind-snappingly immense spiders out of five, with two of them for the sheer fun of it all.


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