The Colony: A Novel

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Overview

 A series of gruesome attacks have been sweeping New York City. A teacher in Harlem and two sanitation workers on Wall Street are found dead, their swollen bodies nearly dissolved from the inside out. The predator is a deadly supercolony of ants—an army of one trillion soldiers with razor-sharp claws that pierce skin like paper and stinging venom that liquefies its prey.

The desperate mayor turns to the greatest ant expert in the world, Paul O’Keefe, a Pulitzer Prize–winning scientist in an Armani suit. But ...

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The Colony: A Novel

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Overview

 A series of gruesome attacks have been sweeping New York City. A teacher in Harlem and two sanitation workers on Wall Street are found dead, their swollen bodies nearly dissolved from the inside out. The predator is a deadly supercolony of ants—an army of one trillion soldiers with razor-sharp claws that pierce skin like paper and stinging venom that liquefies its prey.

The desperate mayor turns to the greatest ant expert in the world, Paul O’Keefe, a Pulitzer Prize–winning scientist in an Armani suit. But Paul is baffled by the ants. They are twice the size of any normal ant and have no recognizable DNA. They’re vicious in the field yet docile in the hand. Paul calls on the one person he knows can help destroy the colony, his ex-wife Kendra Hart, a spirited entomologist studying fire ants in the New Mexico desert. Kendra is taken to a secret underground bunker in New York City, where she finds herself working side by side with her brilliant but arrogant ex-husband and a high-ranking military officer hell-bent on stopping the insects with a nuclear bomb.

When the ants launch an all-out attack, Paul and Kendra hit the dangerous, panic-stricken streets of New York, searching for a coveted queen. It’s a race to unlock the secrets of an indestructible new species, before the president nukes Manhattan.

A.J. Colucci's debut novel is a terrifying mix of classic Michael Crichton and Stephen King. A thriller with the highest stakes and the most fascinating science, The Colony does for ants what Jaws did for sharks.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Two years after a geneticist releases a huge queen ant in Manhattan’s Riverside Park, New York City comes under attack from a vicious new species of ant in Colucci’s exciting thriller debut. As the death toll rises, the ambitious mayor calls on Paul O’Keefe, a leading ant expert, for solutions. When Paul is stymied, the federal government snatches his ex-wife, entomologist Kendra Hart, from her research project in New Mexico. Kendra, who has just developed a method of destroying ant colonies by using pheromones to get its members to turn on each other, joins Paul in a race against the clock to find an answer for the catastrophic devastation the insects cause. While Colucci resorts to some old chestnuts of the subgenre, she makes what could have been a silly premise plausible, and balances scares and science nicely. Michael Crichton fans will hope that this is but the first of many such outings from the author’s pen. Agent: Adrienne Rosado, Nancy Yost Literary. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
"New York City comes under attack from a vicious new species of ant in Colucci's exciting thriller debut....Colucci...balances scares and science nicely. Michael Crichton fans will hope that this is but the first of many such outings from the author's pen."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Colucci's suspense-novel debut is a frightening combination of well-researched science and scenes of pure horror. Downright gory in places, the tale is rounded out by the usual corrupt officials, warring industries, and failed romances. Full of suspense and intrigue, The Colony will especially appeal to fans of Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park and the like."—Booklist

"[A] grimly entertaining debut...the book transcends its horror-movie basis with descriptions of the ants in action and of the science behind the Siafu Moto, which is part fire ant and part African strain....Not a book for picnic-goers, this tale may have you rethinking those warnings about fire ants heading north."—Kirkus Reviews

"A quick-paced read, this is creepy, terrifying and impossible to put down."—Virginia Living

"Few debuts cut to the quick as effectively as A.J. Colucci's The Colony.  Razor-sharp writing, scientific intrigue, and political brinkmanship create a story as plausible as it is frightening. Here's a novel to leave your skin crawling—and wanting more!"—James Rollins, New York Times bestselling author of The Devil Colony

“Innovative, provocative, and exciting, The Colony possesses the three crucial ingredients for any high concept thriller. I'll never look at an ant the same way again."–Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author of The Columbus Affair

"The kind of story that eats you alive, one little bite at a time. Accurate research combines with pure horror for a fantastic read."—Scott Sigler, New York Times bestselling author of Infected

“A.J. Colucci has created an engaging, frightening tale mixing science and adrenaline in equal measure. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. If you like Crichton, you owe it to yourself to read The Colony.”—Paul McEuen, author of Spiral

"Creep-a-palooza! A.J. Colucci's masterpiece combines whirlwind action, characters that make you stand up and cheer, and deliciously evil killer ants into a flesh-ripping joyride of a thriller. It's one of the most gripping stories I've read in ages. Read it tonight, and I guarantee you'll be canceling tomorrow's picnic."—Shane Gericke, national bestselling author of Torn Apart

"You'll think twice about squashing ants after you read The Colony. The novel is fun, scary, and unsettling. Creepy in the best sense of the word."—Mark Alpert, author of Final Theory

Kirkus Reviews
Mutant ants--millions of 'em--have taken over New York City, killing tens of thousands of humans, and only one thing can stop them: a special formula synthesized from a queen's pheromones that makes the ants turn on each other. But will entomologist Kendra Hart be able to dose the invading army with her special brew before the military goes ahead with a plan to nuke Manhattan? In her grimly entertaining debut, Colucci savors her descriptions of the ants, which are 8 inches long, can move at eight miles an hour, have pincers, mandibles and armor--and, in the case of the queens, brains 100 times bigger than normal ants. These ants travel in frightening black waves, weigh down people until the humans can't stand up, and with each bite spread toxins that cause swelling, shock and death. The upside of the scenario for Kendra is that the ants attack only during the day. At night, they hibernate. Leaving the safety of a secret underground bunker, Kendra is lucky to find a queen inside an elevator shaft--but not before being poisoned by ants and spared death via an injection of epinephrine. She receives it from her ex-husband, Pulitzer-winning ant authority Paul O'Keefe, who summoned her from New Mexico. They're joined by computer whiz Jeremy Rudeau, Paul's longtime rival and the man who came between them. Love reblooms to the creepy sound of ants moving en masse. Until its somewhat pat ending, the book transcends its horror-movie basis with descriptions of the ants in action and of the science behind the Siafu Moto, which is part fire ant and part African strain. One only wishes the political types here weren't so cartoonish. Not a book for picnic-goers, this tale may have you rethinking those warnings about fire ants heading north.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250001290
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 11/13/2012
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 477,367
  • Product dimensions: 5.82 (w) x 8.44 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

A. J. Colucci lives in New Jersey and spent fifteen years as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor, and writer for corporate America before becoming a full-time author.

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

 

 

New York City

WINTER, KISS MY ASS, Jerrol Thomas cheerfully mused as he strolled out of the Harlem bodega and the late afternoon sun hit his face. It had been a frigid March and now the air was balmy and sweet. He smiled and counted his lottery tickets. April was his lucky month, so he was surprised to find a boy banging a rock against the lock of his new racing bike, denting the derailleur and chipping the paint.

“Shiiee, Malcolm! Who taught you how to gank a bike?” Jerrol was tall and broad-shouldered with a goatee and striking black eyes, and he towered over the twelve-year-old. “Ever hear of a hacksaw, you stupid ass? Get the hell away from my wheels!”

“I didn’t know it was yours, sir,” Malcolm said, and quickly sprinted down the sidewalk.

“It’s no wonder you’re failing my math class,” Jerrol yelled after him, but then walked away smiling. He crossed Amsterdam Avenue and opened the garden gate to the back of his building. His apartment was small but surrounded by the community garden. No one messed with the garden. The white picket fence was like a fortress in the neighborhood, which had its share of gangsters and social misfits who went around shoplifting, mugging and shooting each other, but no one would even think about picking a tomato. Jerrol liked that his front door faced the hydrangea, which were still standing brown and dry since the fall.

He strolled over to the patio and fiddled with his keys. There was a noise behind him and, without turning around, Jerrol knew it was a rat. Lately there had been a lot of rats, and they seemed to be acting strangely. Not lazily eating the foliage as they normally did, but zipping in frantic circles and rolling in the weeds. This rat seemed to be dancing on its hind legs. Its tiny arms waved as it swayed from side to side. Then it fell to the ground beneath the fence. Jerrol strained his neck to see that part of the animal’s back was gone. In place of fur were patches of bloody flesh, as if it had been skinned.

“Coming in?” a voice said from inside.

Jerrol looked at his wife standing in the doorway.

“Postpartum checkup, remember?”

Jerrol didn’t want her to see the bloody creature so he kissed her hard on the lips and pushed his way inside. “You be sure to ask the doctor when we can get back to business.”

“Now you’re talking.” She grabbed her purse and headed out. “I’ll be home late. Check on the baby. It’s almost suppertime.” As soon as the door shut, there was a shrill cry from the nursery. Jerrol went to the kitchenette, heated up a bottle in the microwave and headed down the hallway.

*   *   *

A few hours later, Jerrol was reading a book on the sofa in cut-off shorts and a Lakers T-shirt when he remembered the rat. He laid the book on the coffee table and went to the front door, flicked on the outside light and stepped into the chilly night air.

The patio light cast a shimmer on the concrete terrace and metal chairs. A few yards away, the garden was still visible under a three-quarter moon that shone down on rows of freshly tilled soil. Poppy plants swayed in a gentle breeze. There was nothing between the stakes of dried tomato vines, where the rat had expired. It was gone.

An orange-striped cat sprang to the top of the fence and Jerrol flinched, but then he smiled as the feral beast dropped to the other side with a dead thing in its mouth.

“Good going, Garfield,” he said.

Hanging from a leafless elm tree was a string of bamboo chimes that made a clattering sound. They fell silent as the wind died down. Jerrol noticed that the poppy plants continued to move. Dried stalks rustled and quivered in a peculiar way. Then, out of their shadows, a wide puddle emerged. It seeped across the ground like an oil leak, into the whiteness of moonlight. Immediately it was clear that this was not one entity but countless tiny forms.

Ants.

Jerrol had seen a cluster of them scurrying through the garden last spring, moving as a unit just like these but in a much smaller group. The dense pool spread out and broke off into ravines, forming perfect rows twelve inches across. These ants were the biggest he’d ever seen, nearly an inch long. Jerrol observed their pageantry, curiously amused, but at the same time his nerve wrenched at the way they marched in formation like platoons of soldiers. It was a hauntingly familiar image.

Driver ants.

They had been featured on a Discovery Channel special in one of the school classrooms—Killer Ants of the Congo, it was called. They were known to hunt in groups, attacking anything that breathed. But this was Harlem; you had to keep out the drugs, not the bugs.

The yard suddenly grew darker and Jerrol turned around, squinting at the patio fixture. Black splotches encased the glass ball, moving and blending together until the lamp disappeared and only the moon was left shining. In the shadows, millions of tiny agile bodies were forming bridges and ropes ten feet long, connecting bushes, flowerpots and lawn chairs.

Ants don’t do this, he thought and a shiver of impending doom ran up his spine. He blinked hard and refocused on the garden. Threads of black were linked like chains between gutters and trellises. They blanketed the ground and spilled over rocks and brush and newly sprouted greenery. They covered the barbecue grill, the lawnmower, a soccer ball, a wooden bench, the toolshed and every other surface on the property.

*   *   *

One exceedingly large ant lay motionless on a tree limb, watching Jerrol from the back of the yard. Her compound eyes lacked the sharp focus of human vision, but with thousands of tiny lenses she perceived movement and the slightest change in light more acutely, which allowed her to observe the man below whose form, shape and erratic movements all signaled prey. His scent, drifting in the wind, was detected between her antennae and made a clear confirmation.

Like cutting sheers, the sharp mandibles of the queen opened and closed with anxious clicks. Her brain was not capable of understanding the concept of time, but she had a keen sense of duty and purpose. As she watched the other ants move toward the target, her snaps became hurried like the fighting claws of a crab. On long, wiry legs she rose and the ants around her began to react with extreme agitation. The queen opened her large mandibles in a roar, but what she emitted from her mouth was far more powerful than any sound of alarm.

The ants rushed toward Jerrol from every direction.

“Sh-shit!” he cried out in panic, and braced for the onslaught, crouching with arms to his face in defense.

But the ants didn’t attack. The front lines reached a few inches from his sneakers and turned at a forty-five-degree angle in unison, circling him in a ring that was nearly the size of the yard itself. Alone in a four-foot patch of grass, the terrified man was completely surrounded by a colony of 22 million insects.

Jerrol began trembling feverishly. Cold sweat ran down his back and his shirt clung to his skin. He spun quickly in circles. There was no way out of the yard and no path back to the house. A sudden, unearthly sound resonated like waves of radio static, growing louder across the yard. With a whimper, he danced on his feet and stared eagerly at the door, where he could see the comforting blue pile carpet and the open book on the coffee table. More than anything, he wanted to be back in his living room.

Instinctively, he pulled a stake from the ground and swept it like a sword across the sea of insects, hoping to create a clear path to his door. Instead, fervor broke out among the ranks. The largest soldier ants surged toward him, flanking the lines with the speed of a creature ten thousand times their size, while the smaller ones ran center like chemically guided missiles.

As the swarm reached his sneakers he stomped down hard. The insects sprang upon his legs like splatters from a mud puddle, piercing skin and clamping tight. The pain of their stingers was fierce. Jerrol’s knees buckled and he collapsed to the ground as the army attacked full force.

A hundred collective stings sent him diving headfirst into the house, where he skidded across the rug and rolled on the carpet as if on fire. He slammed the door, shrieking and hugging his ragged shins that were covered in ant bites and erupting white pustules. He bit through his lip and crawled to the bathroom, leaving a thin red trail along the blue rug.

*   *   *

Cries of agony were muted behind the clear plastic shower curtain as Jerrol sat slumped at the bottom of the tub, groaning, in wet clothes and sneakers, as heavy steam engulfed the room. The insects held tight to his legs from toe to knee. Their three-hook claws pierced his shins, stinging again and again. The venom felt like razors through his veins and carried the toxin from limbs to torso, to every muscle and organ.

The pain of mandibles biting and filling their jaws with meat was excruciating. Jerrol hunched over his knees, digging fingernails deep and scratching away layers of flesh. A few ants spun down the drain in a river of bloody water, but most were burrowing farther into the wounds. Small knobby bumps moved under the skin of his kneecap where black tunnels of ants were visible as they fed and crawled freely about.

A searing heat pulsed from the side of his left foot where a tremendous amount of blood poured into the tub. He peeled back the top flap of his sock with frantic, shaking fingers. Underneath were the tattered remains of flesh and sinew, and a hole the size of a quarter where white ankle bone protruded from the center.

He was overcome with dizziness and nausea, his face sickly and swollen like a rubber Halloween mask. Jerrol fell back into an inch of vivid red water. Shock took over, the pain began to subside and a soothing numbness came to his body.

Jerrol curled up on his side and let the hot spray rain down on him. He thought he would pass out, wanted to pass out—when the cry of a baby cut through the steam.

Panic roused him with a burst of energy as he imagined ants crawling over his child. He clumsily flung himself out of the tub and stumbled like a rag doll down the hallway, bouncing off walls in a crooked path to the dark nursery.

He slapped on the light switch. The baby was alone. Not even a moth. She lay screaming on a Winnie the Pooh crib sheet. Her tiny body snuggled warmly in a green blanket surrounded by two blue bunnies, an orange whale, and spit-up from breakfast.

Jerrol was relieved but his heart was failing. He could barely suck in a breath. Dark footprints followed his path from the doorway to the crib, where he stood over the child, looking like a monster splattered with blood from head to foot. He turned to the window and parted the lacy curtains with trembling fingers that left streaks of red.

Below, the entire floor of the garden moved like a graceful undulating sea. Black armor gleamed in the moonlight. Then all at once, the armies began breaking up into geometric shapes that seemed to shrivel in size. Jerrol held his breath with a last bit of emotion as the puddles seeped into the ground. Then the remaining invaders crawled off his own body and fled toward the door. The ants were leaving.

The baby wailed as her father slowly twisted to face the door. He took two wobbly steps, sweating profusely from a 110 degree temperature. Then his eyes swelled shut, his head snapped back and he coughed up a spray of blood.

Jerrol fell to his knees, and then to the floor.

 

Copyright © 2012 by A. J. Colucci

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2013

    Breath Taking

    Oh my goodness! I cant believe more people havent read this amaazing book! I am a teenager and dont usually venture over to an adult read because it is harder for me to relate to... but anyone could read this book as long as their willing to dive into a nightmarish journey!!!!! I learned soo much, but also was so intrigued and held in suspense i couldnt stop reading!!!!! I will now always look at ants and how are world works so much differently. This book is told from many view points and has short stories entwind in it... but is never confusing. I highly reccommend and put this book up there with some of the best books ive ever read! So stop what your doing and pick up this book and a very possible predator that I believe would be the worst thing to die by.... but only worry a little cuase theres only trillions of them already around you!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 11, 2014

    Creepy, crawly, scary, old fashioned good read. A little predict

    Creepy, crawly, scary, old fashioned good read. A little predictable but in a good way. Has a sappy happy ending.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2013

    Entertaining with mesty science

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2013

    My skin is still crawling.

    This was a fun read that made me look at ants in a whole new way. A mix of science, mad men and governments out of control. More proof that mankind should stop messing with mother nature, for sure.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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