Be forewarned, there’s a lot of needless exposition in Spider Legs, the giant sea creature novel from co-authors Piers Anthony and Clifford A. Pickover. It’s not Moby Dick level exposition, of course, but it’s totally disruptive and maddeningly unnecessary.
All writers know that exposition is an essential literary tool. It provides context and helps manage the story’s action and rising climax. Using this simple matrix, Spider Legs would certainly benefit from a better balance between setting, character and conflict.
Readers are treated to an unflagging discourse on sea spiders (Pycnogonids) and the indigenous environment of Newfoundland. That’s to be expected, I guess. Unfortunately, the info is delivered in the most dull and didactic way possible.
For 200 pages, this pedantic writing style strangles the narrative dead (check out the villain’s long-winded soliloquy and weep). Congratulations to anyone who makes it to the awesome climactic man-verses-monster endgame.
But is it worth the trouble? I dunno. The closing chapters featuring a giant mutant sea spider terrorizing a ferry full of tourists are indeed terrific—kudos to Anthony and Pickover for giving us a last minute thrill ride. It’s too bad the rest of the novel is soooo boring. The nicest thing I can say about Spider Legs is that it’s a slow burn.
Characterization and dialog are also a big problem here. Not for one moment do the characters talk or act like real people. Take for example the novel-length courtship between lonely policewoman Natalie Sheppard and Nathan Smallwood of the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology.
“I find myself getting intrigued with you in a male-female way,” says Nathan to Natalie during their second date. That makes me happy, she replies. “I have a great need for affection, love and physical pleasure.” Could sexual tension between two lovers be less steamy??
Later that same day, the two lovebirds check into a hotel to consummate their affair. “Perhaps you can appreciate the appeal of such interaction,” says Natalie, tickling Nathan where it counts. After a little bit of frottage, Nathan unknowingly shoots his shot prematurely. Natalie has to tell the poor guy what just happened. “Oh, my!” he says flushed with embarrassment. “I didn’t realize!”
Oh, brother. Has there ever been a man in the history of mankind who wasn’t aware of having an orgasm? No, of course not. To prove how bad the sex scene is, I wish I could cut-and-paste the entire thing and attach it to this review. It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read.
[Spider Legs / By Piers Anthony & Clifford A. Pickover / First Paperback Edition: February 1999 / ISBN: 9780812564898]