Duncan Long’s Spider Worlds is a children’s science fiction trilogy is not to be confused with Colin Wilsons’ Spider World quartet; a series of dark post-apocalyptic stories for adults and young adults. Long’s Spider Worlds is a tale about a boy, Jake, who discovers a giant talking spider in his basement, Bekla, who is actually a being from another world, studying the inhabitants of Earth and looking for someone who can help the insect races.
This is an intriguing book for several reasons. Firstly, the meta-science behind the spiders is quite fascinating. It’s a fantastic idea I would love to see explored more in fiction. Once spiders reach a certain level of sentience they are capable of weaving ‘webs of travel,’ a uniquely patterned and textured web which distorts and warps space, allowing them to travel anywhere in the universe. The second key concept, is that spiders and other insect races can’t count. This is why they need Jake – they need his ability to count and use computers to help them figure out a monetary system to enable them to trade with each other and end lengthy barter negotiations or conflicts over inconsistent pricing. There are not enough children’s books where the main protagonist becomes an intergalactic stock broker, working for a hefty commission.
The writing is easy to read; Long’s prose is clear and uncluttered. The characters are what you would expect from a children’s story. If the setting were different it would be a pretty average read, but ti is the unique science fantasy elements that make this book stand out. Intriguingly, Duncan Long has also published dozens upon dozens of books on firearms, survival, tactics and other military subjects, and his books are used by American Federal agencies as part of their training.
Not only does this not creep into Spider Worlds, but the spider, Bekla, even tells Jake the importance of keeping her a secret from other humans because word would spread, gossip would grow, fear and uncertainty would rule over common sense, people would fear the threat of invasion and war would inevitably break out – because this is what humans do.
As enjoyable as this book was, it hasn’t changed my opinions on spiders in the slightest. I can ignore small ones but, like Beklas’ fears, the large ones will be forever eradicated from my home. Who knows, maybe the large Vagrant Spiders in the wood shed are merely trying to enlist my help to create an economic system on their homeworld, and I callously squish them with an indifferent bloodlust.
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