A brand-new designer drug arrives in New York City with the force of a hurricane: Triple X, a potentially lethal combination of ecstasy and gamma radiation that is literally turning users from the shadowy, dank alleys to the glittering, raucous party circuit into living, rampaging nightmares. For high school science teacher Peter Parker, Triple X's onslaught on some of his students and his wife's professional life is as dangerous as it is unexpected. For Peter's secret alter-ego, the costumed crime-fighter known to the world as Spider-Man, the situation quickly accelerates from bad to worse, as the drug's effects run unchecked against law enforcement's and his own valiant efforts to rein in the city-wide chaos. But there is a growing consensus between Spider-Man and the police that, for reasons yet unknown, one of the arachnid's most fearsome enemies may be behind it all as part of a greater scheme to bring the city and one of its most heroic and hated defenders to its knees at long last...
About the Author
Keith R.A. DeCandido was born and raised in New York City to a family of librarians. He has written over two dozen novels, as well as short stories, nonfiction, eBooks, and comic books, most of them in various media universes, among them Star Trek, World of Warcraft, Starcraft, Marvel Comics, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Serenity, Resident Evil, Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, Farscape, Xena, and Doctor Who. His original novel Dragon Precinct was published in 2004, and he's also edited several anthologies, among them the award-nominated Imaginings and two Star Trek anthologies. Keith is also a musician, having played percussion for the bands the Don't Quit Your Day Job Players, the Boogie Knights, and the Randy Bandits, as well as several solo acts. In what he laughingly calls his spare time, Keith follows the New York Yankees and practices kenshikai karate. He still lives in New York City with his girlfriend and two insane cats.
Read an Excerpt
Peter Parker looked at the clock on the wall, smiled, and said, "We've got a few minutes, so let's go to the next chapter: 'The Periodic Table of Elements.'"
A roomful of teenagers moaned and whined.
Peter smiled, remembering hearing similar moans in science class when he was a student here at Midtown High School and the teacher jumped ahead. Of course, Peter never indulged in those complaints himself he was always three steps ahead of the rest of his classmates, especially in the science classes, whether it was in physics, chemistry, biology, or the general sciences that he now, years later, was himself teaching.
"Now, now," he said chidingly, "the periodic table was part of the reading you were supposed to have done by yesterday's class. So you all should have it down pat by now." He walked over to the side of the classroom, to the bulletin board situated between the room's two doors on the right-hand side from where the kids sat. "Besides, it's been up on the board all year."
"Dude, I thought it was a movie poster," Tommy Ciolfi muttered. Several of the kids around him tried, and mostly failed, to swallow a laugh.
"Well, it has been coming soon to a classroom near you." Peter winced even as he made the bad joke. Why is it I'm hilarious when I'm beating up bad guys, but all the jokes I make as a teacher are lame? "All right, who can tell me why the isotopes are in the order they're in?"
He looked around the room; only two hands, those of Marissa Blaustein and Suzyn Baptiste, went up. Hardly surprising, Peter thought. They're two of the brightest kids in the class. Marissa was pretty, popular, had perfect diction, and was onthe junior-varsity cheerleading squad; Suzyn was overweight, unpopular, spoke with a Haitian accent, and was in the chess club. Both were brilliant, and they seemed to be in competition with each other academically. Marissa couldn't stand the idea of the social misfit being better than her, and Suzyn despised Marissa and everything she stood for. Peter had to admit, it made for good theatre.
However, this was a ridiculously easy question, and one that anyone who had actually done the homework would know. So he looked out over the class to see who besides these two really did the work.
Actually, only a few were looking at him. Most of the thirty kids were studying either their notebooks, or the window, or the floor, or the clock in the hopes that it would move faster. Peter's freshman general sciences class was scheduled for last period, and it was always difficult to hold kids' attention during the final class of the day, particularly in a required class that most of them didn't give a damn about.
Still, he was there to teach, and they were there to learn. He fixed his gaze on Javier Velasquez, the class's biggest troublemaker. Javier wasn't the only kid in the class with a rap sheet, but he was the one who took the most pride in it. "Javier?"
Peter exhaled. "Answer the question, please." Knowing full well the kid hadn't heard it since he hadn't paid attention to anything Peter had said all year he threw Javier a bone and re-asked it: "What order are the isotopes on the Periodic Table in?"
He shrugged. "Alphabetical?"
One kid almost laughed, but stopped at a glare from Javier.
"L doesn't usually come before B," Peter said. "At least not in any language I'm familiar with."
"You 'familiar' with the language of kiss my ass?"
Peter grinned. "Yup. It's the language you'll be talking if you don't do your homework or if I decide to tell the principal about the switchblade you've got stashed in your locker."
The look on Javier's face was priceless. Normally, a kid talking to a teacher like that or, for that matter, carrying a weapon into the school would get detention or a suspension, but Peter didn't much see the point in punishing Javier. He knew that Javier lived with the threat of getting shot or stabbed every day. Detention was going to neither scare him nor dissuade him from future infractions; suspension would just put him back on the streets for a few days, and he might decide to make it permanent, in which case, nobody won.
Peter looked around the room. "Anyone else?"
Slowly, Gregory Horowitz raised a meek hand. Gregory had the highest grades of anyone in the class, but he rarely raised his hand, despite Peter's encouragement. Seeing this as a good sign, Peter called on him.
"A atomic mass?"
Indignantly, Marissa said, "No it's not! The book says it's atomic weight."
In a barely audible voice, Gregory said, "Sci scientists prefer the term atomic mass now."
In a stage whisper, Tommy said, "Oooooh, Geekory's hangin' out with scientists now."
"Actually, you're both right," Peter said, overlaying Tommy. "Unfortunately, the textbook we're using is about five years old or, to put it in simple terms, the same age that Tommy's acting " That got a quick laugh from several kids, with the notable exceptions of Tommy and Javier. " and since then, as Gregory said, scientists have come to prefer the more precise term 'atomic mass' to 'atomic weight.'" Let's hear it for budget cuts, Peter thought with a sigh. The text they were using wasn't much farther along than the one he had used as a fourteen-year-old.
He pointed at the upper-left-hand portion of the chart. "H is for hydrogen, which has an atomic mass of 1.00797 or just 1, for our purposes. How do you figure out the atomic mass, Marissa?"
Since Marissa had obviously done the reading, Peter figured she'd give the right answer. Without hesitating, she confidently said, "By adding the number of neutrons and electrons."
With a triumphant look at her classmate, Suzyn said, "The number of neutrons and protons." Marissa stared daggers at Suzyn.
"Right. It's the particles in the nucleus that make up the atomic mass. The electrons orbit the nucleus and don't figure into it."
Tommy rolled his eyes.
"Something bothering you, Tommy?"
Shifting uncomfortably in his seat at the sudden attention, Tommy said, "Uh, no, Mr. Parker, it's just well. I mean, c'mon, who gives a damn about this crap? Atomic weight, atomic mass it don't mean nothin'!"
Peter sighed. When he took this job, he knew it was going to be an uphill struggle. Most of these kids would rather be playing with their Xboxes or chatting with their friends online or text-messaging each other from across the room, or whatever it was that kids did these days. Peter didn't even know what kids did when he was that age. He had been as much an outcast as Gregory and Suzyn were: the geek, the dexter, the nerd, the one who went to a science exhibit instead of the football game or the homecoming dance.
And imagine what life would've been like if I hadn't gone to that science exhibit...
Looking out over the mostly apathetic faces of kids desperate to get out of school as fast as possible, he let out a long breath and walked back to the front of the class, away from the chart, and sat on the edge of his desk. "Look, I know this all seems meaningless but look at what we're talking about here." He pointed at the chart. "This is what everything's made of. You, me, the desks, your books, the pavement outside, the lockers, the trees, the SUVs, the buildings, your clothes, your cell phones, your video games this is what it's all made out of. These are the building blocks of the world. How can you not be excited by that?" Quickly holding up a hand, he said, "Don't answer that." Several chuckles followed. "I know, you don't think this is a big deal, but it really is."
He glanced at the clock. The bell would be ringing momentarily. "Any other questions?"
Ronnie Hammond raised his hand.
"Kr stands for Krypton, right?"
"I thought that was a planet."
Before Peter could give that the answer it deserved, the bell rang. "We'll pick this up tomorrow." His words could barely be heard over the din of books and notebooks closing, desks sliding on the linoleum floor, and classmates talking to each other. Peter noted that Suzyn and Gregory weren't talking to anyone. There but for the grace of a radioactive spider go I, he thought wistfully. "And don't forget," he said louder, "there's a test on chapters four, five, and six on Friday!"
That was met with predictable moans and whines.
Javier was one of the last to get up. He stared at Peter the whole time, then got up and walked out, never taking his eyes off Peter.
For his part, Peter met the stare. By the time he reached the door, Javier looked royally pissed off that Peter didn't blink.
Poor kid. If only he knew...Peter looked like a wussy white guy from Queens, and Javier usually ate teachers like that for breakfast. But Peter had spent all of his life since he was only a little older than Javier dealing with people who would eat Javier for breakfast.
Gregory made his way out of the class slowly, not wanting to get in anyone's way for fear that someone might notice him. Peter recognized that walk oh so well. That was how he had walked all over Midtown High. It was also how he had walked into that science exhibit on that fateful day, sponsored by a company in the Pacific Northwest that was doing demonstrations at high schools across the country. He had entered slowly, shuffling his feet, not wanting to bother anybody, and therefore had been stuck at the back of the room, barely able to see the demo. When a spider had gotten into the workings and became irradiated, Peter had been the one it bit in its death throes, the radiation changing the spider bite from something potentially fatal to something wondrous. Standing at the back as he was, nobody had noticed Peter stumbling out of the exhibit hall, wandering aimlessly down the streets of the Forest Hills section of Queens, wondering why he felt so strange.
Now, Peter walked more confidently through the school's halls, preparing himself to head home to his wife. No, head home to an empty apartment, he amended. Mary Jane had rehearsal tonight. His lovely wife had a supporting part and was understudy to the female lead in a way-the-heck-off-Broadway play called The Z-Axis.
"Hey, Mr. Parker!"
Peter turned to see Tommy standing at his locker, wearing the same smart-aleck grin that Flash Thompson used to wear when he was about to torment young Peter Parker. Some of Tommy's friends were nearby, cleaning out their lockers and grabbing their jackets and books. "Yeah, Tommy?"
To Peter's surprise, the grin fell, and Tommy sounded serious. "That speech you gave today I gotta say it really really really sucked." By the time he reached the last two words, the grin was back.
Putting a hand on Tommy's shoulder, Peter said, "Well, Tommy, under normal circumstances I'd say that you just have to tough it out until June, at which point you'll never have to take general science again."
Tommy looked confused. "Whaddaya mean 'normal circumstances'?"
Peter smiled. "Well, if you keep going the way you're going, you're gonna have to take it all over again in summer school after you flunk." Removing the hand, and taking pleasure in the guffaws from Tommy's friends, Peter continued walking toward the faculty lounge.
He entered the tiny room that served as the teachers' refuge from the students. The furniture was brand-new when it was purchased shortly after World War II, the refrigerator sounded like a motorcycle with a muffler problem and only intermittently kept its contents below room temperature, and the grout in the tilework around the sink could, at this point, qualify as an alien life-form.
Just remember, Parker, you chose this job. If nothing else, it provided a more steady income than freelance photography ever had.
"How do you do it?"
Peter turned to see one of the math teachers, Elizabeth Doyle, sitting on the green sofa with the red cushions, clutching a can of diet soda for dear life.
"Do what, Liz?"
"Keep that smile on your face." She shook her head. "Damn newbies, always thinking this job's a calling and that it's noble. It's a job. And like every job, it sucks."
Walking over to the coffeemaker on the counter, Peter said, "Oh believe me, Liz, I've been at jobs that suck." He saw that there was about one cup left in the pot, and reached for the handle with one hand while opening the cabinet to retrieve his mug with the other. "But here at least I feel like I'm accomplishing something."
Liz looked at him like he'd grown another head. "If you say so. Don't you have Velasquez in your class?"
Peter nodded as he poured the coffee into the mug, steam twirling up from it.
She shook her head. "That's an expulsion waiting to happen. I'm telling you, the only way he's not expelled by the end of the year is if he gets himself killed."
Whatever Peter was going to say in response was lost when he made the mistake of actually drinking the coffee. Closing his eyes and trying not to think too hard about what he was doing, he swallowed it. "I see they're still using yesterday's dishwater for the coffee."
Holding up her can, Liz said, "That's why I stick with the soda machines. Safer."
"Yah." Peter poured the rest of the coffee into the sink. I can always grab a cup at home before going on patrol. "Anyhow, I think it's important "
Liz held up a hand. "I swear, Pete, you tell me you took this job to give something back to the school that taught you so much, I will throw up right here on this sofa."
Peering at the cushions, Peter smiled and said, "Might improve the color."
Shaking her head, Liz hauled herself up from the couch and drank down the rest of her soda. "You're a crazy man, Pete."
"I think that was part of the job description when they hired me. 'Must have been crazy since the age of eighteen.'"
Liz chuckled. "Sad, but true. You need a lift home?"
"Nah, I'll walk. Thanks, though." Peter had accepted lifts home from Liz a few times, but with MJ not being home, he wasn't in any particular rush. The walk back to the apartment would help him decompress.
"Smart man, no car in this town. Wouldn't have one myself, but you try gettin' to Bayside by mass transit from here."
Having spent most of his youth navigating the Queens bus lines, Peter felt Liz's pain. The only subway that came close to Bayside, the 7, didn't come through Forest Hills. She was definitely better off with a car, even the '86 Chevy junker that she drove.
After saying his good-byes to Liz, Peter went by the science office to drop off his books and check his mail. Peter had spent most of his time since high school learning to travel with what he could put in his pockets. His school-related stuff remained in the science office he didn't have anything to grade tonight, and he'd prepare for tomorrow's lessons in the morning and everything else he needed fit in either his pants or jacket. It was a bit nippy out on this spring day, but Peter was wearing a skintight outfit underneath his button-down shirt, jacket, and slacks, so he figured he'd be warm enough.
Bidding farewell to his fellow science teachers several of whom made their usual disparaging remarks about Peter's leaving all his work at the office he headed toward the exit, allowing the teenagers dashing through the halls to get to their parents' cars or the bus stop or just out to zip past him. Among the many gifts the dying spider had conferred upon him was a sixth sense that he referred to as his "spider-sense," which allowed him to avoid danger. In practical terms it meant that, in a hallway full of high school kids desperate to be outside, not one of them crashed or bumped into Peter.
The biggest buzz from that extra sense came just as Peter was approaching the metal door at the end of the hall and was about to push the horizontal bar in to release it. Stopping his forward motion and moving to the side gracefully and so quickly that he doubted anyone would even notice Peter avoided being rear-ended by Javier. For his part, Javier stumbled forward unsteadily, not even acknowledging Peter's presence.
I was expecting another dirty look from him at the very least.
Resolving to live with the disappointment, Peter followed Javier to the sidewalk. During the one hour after school let out, this side street was closed to vehicular traffic except for the city buses that Midtown High commissioned to serve as shuttles to various neighborhoods. They were lined up one in front of the other on the curb, kids milling toward the front doors, faculty proctors making a valiant (and futile) attempt to keep the students in some semblance of single file. Peter shuddered, knowing that he would catch this duty in two weeks and dreading it.
Then he whirled back toward Javier mainly because the spider-sense buzz Peter got off the kid hadn't died down.
In fact, it was intensifying.
"Yo, Javier, 'sup with you, man?" asked one of his friends. Peter didn't know the kid's given name, but had seen him before hanging out with Javier, who called him Nariz. Given the enormous schnozz on the kid, the nickname the Spanish word for "nose" fit.
Nariz held up his hand, expecting Javier to clasp it in return, but Javier was just standing unsteadily in the middle of the sidewalk. "You gonna leave me hangin', yo?"
With each passing second, Peter's spider-sense buzz increased in intensity. Javier was wobbly on his feet, but he didn't move or speak.
Just as Peter was about to find a place to change into his other outfit, Nariz lightly tapped Javier on the shoulder with the back of his hand. " 'Sup, yo, you dissin' me now? What up with that?"
"Get offa me!"
Even as Javier said the words, he backhanded Nariz in the face. In and of itself, that would have been unremarkable, except that the blow sent Nariz twenty feet down the sidewalk, knocking over a group of seniors who were congregating.
Fourteen-year-old kids don't usually have that kind of strength, Peter thought as he realized that he wasn't going to have time to change clothes.
Especially when he saw that Javier's complexion had changed from its usual dark skin tone to an emerald green.
There is absolutely no way this can be good. Super strength and green skin was a combination that generally meant enhancement by gamma radiation the most spectacular example being the Hulk. How does a street kid from Queens get gamma-irradiated? Peter asked himself, but saved it for later. Maybe he got bitten by a radioactive wombatworry about that when he isn't about to tear up the street and the students.
One of the security guards at this door was a retired cop named Pat "Lefty" Lefkowitz, who'd been keeping an eye on things at Midtown High since before Peter's student days. Upon seeing Javier clock someone, he waddled over toward the kid, hand on the butt of his .38 revolver. Peter, hoping to keep this civil and knowing full well he probably couldn't, also moved toward Javier. If nothing else, maybe I can keep Lefty's gun in its holster.
" 'Ey, Velasquez, wha'd I tell you about "
Javier turned around and snarled. His face was getting greener by the second, and Peter noticed that he was also growing, his new physique straining against his clothes.
"Sweet Jesus!" Lefty cried, and unholstered his revolver.
Before he could fire a shot, Javier was on the retired cop, punching him in his huge belly, sending Lefty sprawling against the metal door, wheezing. Peter swore he heard the sound of bones cracking.
Kids and faculty alike started screaming, but Peter tried not to pay attention to any of it. Grabbing Javier's arm, he whirled the kid around into one of the metal doors, hoping that his own super strength would give the push enough force to render the kid at least insensate for a few minutes until one of the other guards showed up with a pair of handcuffs.
Unfortunately, being smashed into a metal door served only to make Javier angry. "Kill you!" he cried as he jumped at Peter, who could only let Javier knock him to the ground, using his abilities to roll with the attack enough so that it only hurt a little when they collided with the pavement.
"Get offa him, Velasquez!"
Peter recognized the voice of the other security guard assigned to this door, an ex-jock with delusions of competence named Brian Klein, but Brian's words concerned Peter a lot less than Javier's face. He was as green as the Hulk now, and based on the way he'd slammed into Peter's rib cage, he was starting to get near the Hulk's strength class, too.
Before Peter could kick Javier off him and later come up with a feeble explanation for how a skinny white science teacher could toss a superstrong kid around Javier suddenly screamed as if he was in pain, rearing his head back and shouting at the clear sky.
Then the kid collapsed right on top of Peter.
Deciding discretion was the better part of keeping his secrets safe, Peter played the helpless teacher and whimpered, "Uh, help?"
Javier, now a dead weight on Peter's chest, started twitching. A moment later, the weight was gone, as Brian had rolled him off. Clambering to his feet, Peter looked down to see the green hue fading from Javier's epidermis, even as the kid was convulsing.
From the ground, Lefty said, "I called 911." Peter turned to see Lefty still on the ground, but holding a cell phone. He clambered to his feet, wincing in a manner Peter recognized as that of a man with cracked ribs.
"Good call, old-timer," Brian said.
Lefty snapped, "Don't call me old-timer, you little punk." Lefty, Peter knew, had never had much use for Brian. "You okay, Pete?"
Peter nodded. "Just a little winded."
Brian stared at Peter. "That was a brave thing you did, Parker throwing him into the door like that."
"Brave, hell, that was just stupid." Lefty was now clambering slowly to his feet. "Leave the security to the guards next time, Pete."
"Yeah, like you flat on your ass?" Brian asked with a sneer.
Javier's convulsing started getting worse. Peter also noticed he was sweating.
"Ambulance should be here in a minute," Lefty said, ignoring Brian. "Figures that Velasquez is usin' as well as dealin'. We "
"I kick his ass!"
Peter whirled around to see that Nariz was back on his feet.
"Where the hell is he, I gonna kick "
Even as he spoke, Peter had moved to intercept him faster than Brian or Lefty could have. "Easy, Javier's already down."
"Get out the way, teacher-man, I gonna "
Peter forcibly stopped Nariz, putting his right hand on the boy's left shoulder and his left hand on the kid's right biceps.
Giving Peter a menacing look that probably would've scared most science teachers, Nariz who was bleeding from his outsized hooter said, "You best be lettin' go'a me, teacher-man."
"Javier's not going anywhere, Nariz. Take a look." He gestured with his head to the ground, where Javier was still twitching, without actually taking his eye off Nariz.
Nariz looked down at Javier. "Damn." He looked at Lefty. "Wha'd you do to him?"
"He didn't do anything," Peter said quickly before Lefty or Brian responded in kind. "He just collapsed. Is he on anything that would do that?"
Nariz just stared at Peter. "You got two seconds to be lettin' go'a me 'fore I get up in yo' face."
Peter let go just as he heard sirens growing closer.
Turning his back on Peter, Nariz walked away. "This ain't over."
The ambulance pulled in behind one of the buses. Only then did Peter notice the crowd that had gathered, barely being held in check by a couple of faculty members and the other security guards, who'd come to check out the ruckus.
One of the English teachers, a small woman named Constance Dobson, looked at Peter and shook her head. "The guard was right about what you did, y'know."
Not sure which guard she meant, Peter asked, "About being brave or about being stupid?"
Unable to help it, Peter laughed. "Yeah, maybe. Still, if I hadn't done anything "
"Lefty or Brian woulda taken care of it. Leave that to the pros, Parker."
"I'll remember that," Peter lied. He'd stood by and done nothing when he had the power to help once. It was a mistake he would never make again.
The EMTs started working on Javier, and based on their chatter, they were assuming he was coming down off a shot of ecstasy. Peter frowned. That doesn't track he was straight in class. He had to have taken it after the bell rang. But you don't burn through an X high that quick.
But then, an X high didn't turn you green and give you superstrength.
Nariz was right, Peter thought as he brushed off the paramedic who approached, assuring her that he was fine. This isn't over.
Copyright © 2005 by Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
DeCandido has been labeled by Trek fiction fans as the second coming of Peter David, which is an apt description but a bit unfair since it shortchanges the fact that DeCandido is a damn good storyteller. He started out his professional novel publishing career with a Spider-Man novel and he returns to it here with this novel. The storyline follows some of the current comic book continuity with Peter teaching high school science, Mary Jane pursuing an acting career and Aunt May knowing Peter Parker equals Spider-Man. A new gamma-radiation treated version of ectasy is on the market and its killing people left and right--after they "Hulk-out" and Peter realizes that in order to stop the deaths, he'll have to find the source of the drug and put it out of business. DeCandido's great strenght in writing novels set in universes not of his own creation is that he's able to capture the voice and nuances of each character and that strength is on display here. But within that context, DeCandido is able to put his own stamp and interpretation on the characters and, for the most part, that works really well. Make not mistake--this novel is not going to win any awards for best fictional novel published this year, but it's a fun, fast-paced and enjoyable read that any fan of Spider-Man should enjoy.
(Originally written March 14, 2006) After being disappointed with a couple of the DC Comics novels of late, I decided to give one of the Marvel versions a try. And I'm glad that I did! While "Green Lantern: Hero's Quest" and "Superman: The Never-Ending Battle" were both fairly bland, this novel was quite refreshing. For one thing, it was clearly written with a mature audience in mind. That does NOT mean that there is endless swearing (there is some) or unnecessary sex scenes (none), but that the theme and tone are geared toward a thoughtful audience. This is a drug novel. It might be a science-fiction drug with science-fiction side effects, but it is a drug story nonetheless. Young people die from this drug. And both Spider-Man and the police have to use their wits for detective work just as much as for battle scenes. As far as I know, I have never read any of Keith R. A. DeCandido's work before, but I would love it if he were to write more of these types of super hero novels. In fact, if this series of books maintains such a mature feel, I would love to see Dean R. Koontz or Christopher Andrews take a crack at one. My ONLY complaint, the only reason I am not giving this novel 5 stars, is because of the ending. While my favorite elements were the down to earth, realistic issues, when it eventually became evident that a popular Spider-Man super villain was behind it all, THEN I was ready for a climactic battle. Unfortunately, it was not to be. The final fights, of which there were two, were handled very briefly, adding up to only a few pages the first time, and over in essentially one page the second time. A bit disappointing. I wish the author had taken just one more chapter to play up those elements. But ... Overall, I was very pleased. This book was very refreshing after DC's let downs. Thanks to this novel, I am now looking forward to Christopher Andrews' "Paranormals," which is apparently ALSO a super human story (though not from DC or Marvel). I'll be reviewing that one next!
I assumed that the new Marvel novels being published by Pocket Star were being targeted to more of an adult audience, but this novel would be better suited to a ten-year-old (except for the occasional profanity). The plot is very thin. In a nutshell, Doc Ock laces some ecstasy with gamma radiation to take revenge on people from his past that have wronged him. It seems like the author tried to put Spider-Man into the world of The Wire or The Shield, and it just doesn't fit.