There’s something about insects in literature that make them the perfect monster. It doesn’t matter how they’re written. They can be small and deadly, or gigantic and misunderstood. They can be acting on instinct or driven by hyper-intelligence. Whatever the case, they’re perfect because up close, insects can look delightfully alien, with their multitude of legs, assortment of eyes, segmented bodies, and exoskeletons.
Also because ew. Bugs.
So let’s take a closer look at five insects that ruin everyone’s day in five awesome books.
PRAYING MANTISES in Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
What happens when a strain of plague is discovered in a small town junk shop, and the virus starts mutating people into giant, eager-to-mate praying mantises? Absolute chaos and hilarity, mixed it with a dash of teenage angst and sexual confusion.
A brilliant piece of YA science-fiction, that touches on a lot of challenging issues. Also, giant praying mantises and the apocalypse.
BUGS IN SPACE in Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
Mankind is wrapped up in an epic interstellar war with a race of giant insect creatures from another planet.
Unlike the many bug types shown in the (awesome but kind of bad but still kind of awesome) movie adaptation, you don’t actually see a lot of the bugs in the book. It’s more about themes circulating around the military and politics, than epic sci-fi space battles against multi-legged bugs. But hey, they are there.
GIANT HYPERINTELLIGENT ANTS in Mort(e) by Robert Repino
An epic science-fiction thriller out on January 20th, Mort(e) introduces you to a world that’s been conquered by hyper-intelligent giant ants.
Tired of mankind’s treatment of the world, the ants have risen to take the planet, and have made other animals self-aware. It’s an epic battle between humans, ants, dogs, ants, cats, ants, raccoons, ants, and it is incredible. And the protagonist, a housecat named Mort(e), will stick with you long after you close the pages.
GIANT (SORT OF) FLIES in The Mist by Stephen King
When a thick mist rolls over a small town, trapping a number of people in a grocery store, an array of horrifying creatures start attacking them. It ranges from a weird tentacle monster to… surprise! Bugs!
Fly-like creatures swarm the windows of the store, their skin a burnt pink and… well, gross. Technically the mist is ruining everyone’s day in this horror novella, but hey, those gross fly-like insects came along with it.
SUPERNATURAL BEDBUGS FROM HELL in Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters
What happens when you throw The Amityville Horror and Rosemary’s Baby into a cauldron and sprinkle it with demonic insects? Ben H. Winters’ Bedbugs, is a story of paranoia and terror involving supernatural bedbugs, possibly from Hell.
It’s made especially scary because the protagonist is the only one being bitten by the bugs, and no one else can see them. Ugh.
GIANT SPIDERS in The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Bonus pick! Because spiders aren’t technically insects, right? They’re arachnids. But whatever, they are still hella scary. Particularly in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.
I’m looking at you, Shelob.
Originally published in January 2015.
Eric Smith is cofounder of Geekadelphia, a popular blog covering all-that-is-geek in the City of Brotherly Love, as well as the Philadelphia Geek Awards, an annual honors show held at the Academy of Natural Sciences. He lives in Philadelphia. You can find him on Twitter at @ericsmithrocks.