What Hides Within by Jason Parent
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Clive Menard thinks nothing of it when he destroys some webbing whilst out kayaking - that is until he begins hearing a voice inside his head. Questioning his own sanity, he desperately tries to rid himself of the oddly feminine presence, but to no avail. The dark passenger is there to stay - or so that's what she continues to tell him.
(WARNING: This review contains spoilers.)
I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I thank Bloodshot Books for giving me the opportunity.
The blurb of this book instantly captured my attention. Just what could be more interesting than a talking spider living inside someone's head? I happen to love the little eight-legged critters, so believe me when I say I didn't hesitate to request this novel. Think of my delight when my request was accepted, and I was thus introduced to Parent's world, and more specifically, Clive's rather uneventful, mundane life; a life we can all relate to in some way. I liked Clive, despite him being a very negative and oftentimes selfish person. His inner monologue mostly consisted of insulting people, which added a nice touch of humour. I always appreciate when something I read makes me smile, and What Hides Within definitely did.
Other characters included Reilly; a detective with detachment issues, Morgan; the love struck best friend, and a questionable amount of perverted men. Okay, so there was two, but Derek was more than enough for me. Each and every one had their own very apparent flaws; selfishness, narcissism, the list goes on. I think they were intentionally depicted badly, to enforce Chester's motivation.
Speaking of Chester, she was the star of the show. The she-spider fascinated me in the way she was written; remarkably intelligent, manipulative, and deliciously deceptive. I admit, I had no clue of her intentions until the last half of the book. I consider myself perceptive - more often than not I can predict where the plot is going, but with Chester I was kept guessing with a multitude of questions coursing through my head. She certainly wasn't the typical baddie, and whilst she possessed obvious abilities and wasn't quite normal, she still only had the physical form of a small arachnid. Her weaknesses were made known throughout; she could just as easily be crushed like any other household spider, and that aspect so clearly fuelled her bitterness.
Naturally, I found myself wondering about her origins - where'd she come from? Just what, exactly, was she? She offered so little to Clive throughout, it nearly made me insane. That is, until this luscious morsel:
"In truth, I don't have a name. I am very old, descended from divinity. My kind was cast aside by a hateful ruler, before our fathers could name us and before our mothers could nurture us. Even so, we were giants amongst men, beings worthy of great reverence. But our creator had no use for us, and we were exiled, wrongly punished for our parents' sins. He chose not to destroy us, instead transforming us into these insignificant specks, forgotten by humanity and the omnipotent themselves."
You've no idea how many times I've read over that paragraph, in an attempt to decipher it. There's so much information in that small piece, and it's the most we get. My thoughts turn to Arachne of Greek mythology (Chester did mention this name), and my assumption is that Chester and her kind are descendants of Arachne, whom was cursed by a God and turned into a spider. The story of myth and Chester's description doesn't quite add up, however, so perhaps Parent added his own take. Either way, I took pleasure in trying to figure her out.
The plot was a slow burner - it focused on acquainting the reader with the characters and the relationship between man and spider, whilst sprinkling some mystery elements into the background. Despite not being action-packed, the build up to the explosive climax was no less exciting. When it came down to it, I wasn't expecting the last twist involving Clive.
In conclusion - I found it very enjoyable. The horror was subtle, yet superbly weaved. Considering the ending, is Chester's antics really done? I don't think so!
Had Clive been capable of even sporadic coherency, he might have feared the hideous being perched on his snout. The minute animal protruded like a wart no more than a third of an inch off Clive's skin. Despite its size and his heavily medicated state, Clive could easily make out what it was; a spider, but unlike any he'd seen before.
© Red Lace 2018