Between Ezekiel Boone's The Hatching (my review) and, now, Chuck Wendig's Invasive, this has been a pretty good summer for bug books! While the former concerned itself with the reemergence of an ancient spider species violently troubling mankind, Wending brings us a brand new strain of genetically modified ultra-violent ants.
Invasive opens with a brief definition of the word 'formication,' which is a sensation that feels like insects crawling over or under your skin. This is a good word to know because you'll be feeling plenty of formication throughout the book, likely by chapter two.
Set in the world of Wendig's prior novel, Zer0es (which, if you haven't read, now is a good time to buy. It's not completely necessary to this title's narrative, but it is a damn fun read and worth checking out. Minor references are made to Zer0es, but this series seems to be building on a theme of hacking - first cyber hacking in the previous entry, and now bio-hacking with Invasive), Hollis Copper returns and recruits FBI futurist consultant, Hannah Stander, to investigate an unusual case: a cabin housing ten thousand dead bodies. One of them is human; the rest are ant corpses, but are the apparent cause of death for the victim in question.
What follows is a horrific technothriller that feels like the spiritual lovechild of Michael Crichton and The X-Files. While there are streaks of humor, Invasive is a fairly dark read, but it carries all the hallmarks of a big summer blockbuster, right down a gloriously large-scale action set-piece for the book's second half. Hannah Stander is a terrific female heroine, and shines wonderfully as the book's strong, central protagonist. I will admit, though, that I was more than a bit captivated by Ez Choi, an entomologist and friend of Stander brought in as a consult. She's a fun, spunky, punky bug geek and I hope we get to see more of her in future books.
I've never been particularly phobic of ants before (I can't say the same about spiders), and I find them to be rather intriguing little creatures. Wendig has me second-guessing myself just a bit now, though... He does capture their intriguing nature with some nicely done sciencey bits (it seems clear he did plenty of homework, and the book's layman explanations of the more technical aspects of ant-life and genetic mucking about ring true enough to me), and the more graphic depictions of what these vicious colonies are capable of left with me more than a few uncomfortable sensations. Yes, it's true - this book made me formicate.
[Note: I received an advance copy of this title for review from the publisher via Edelweiss.]