Ever notice things come in pairs? Like the year Armageddon and Deep Impact were both released. Or Volcano and Dante’s Peak. By the way, I kinda enjoyed both Armageddon and Volcano for being really ridiculous. Psst. Science doesn’t work that way.
But books do the same. Like the year I read both 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson and Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds. Both books were a family drama, murder mystery, and a tour of the future solar system that humans have spread out in. Both books were good, but reading them together meant that one would suffer in comparison. In this case it was the Kim Stanley Robinson book that fell down for me.
More recently, I ended up reading two ‘genetically engineered killer ant’ books in close proximity. Back in November was Invasive, by Chuck Wendig. And on Friday I finished The Colony, by AJ Colucci. While both were enjoyable in their own way, comparing the two left The Colony suffering as a result.
In The Colony, New York city has an infestation of planted killer ants starts killing a few people. Experts are brought in, and in the course of twenty-four hours everything goes crazy. You have rampaging military, romantic triangles, and a lot of death. But the plot is rather basic, and the science… well, it just worked far too fast. TV show fast. And the romantic triangle had all the tension of over-cooked noodles. And the ants had no creepiness. There should have been the terror of the small army coming, with no way to escape. It wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t a great book either
However, Invasive had that in spades. The FBI finds a dead body surrounding by ant corpses. Working with a Futurist, they track down evidence leading to a company building ecologically friendly products. The futurist then gets the owner of the company to let her investigate the labs on an isolated Hawaiian island. The ants don’t get on the loose until more than halfway through the book, and when they do arrive, the tension that had been slowly building ramps up. By the end of the book, I was on the edge of my seat.
Reading and comparing the books is a practical example of how tension and fear can be built, and how not doing so can pull a good idea down. But if you want to read only one of these books, I definitely say pick the Chuck Wendig. Invasive was by far the better book.