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Book Review: Breed by Chase Novak (Series, #1) (Audiobook narrated by Peter Ganim)

October 2, 2014 5 comments

Red outline of a woman's pregnant body against a black backgroundSummary:
When Leslie married Alex, she knew they both agreed on wanting children.  What she didn’t realize, though, was how fiercely Alex, the last son in a long line of wealthy and powerful New Yorkers, would want only their own biological children.  He’s willing to try anything to get them biological children, and she feels she can’t deny him one last-ditch effort with a doctor in Slovenia that a couple from their infertility support group swears worked for them.  And the woman has the baby bump to prove it.  So they fly off to Slovenia, and from the first instant in the doctor’s office, Leslie feels that something just isn’t right….

Review:
I’m a real sucker for evil pregnancy/children stories.  Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen are two of my favorite movies.  So when I heard about this new take on a classic trope, I knew I had to try it out.  The book ends up being much less about pregnancy and more about the perils of genetic modification, providing an interesting twist on the evil pregnancy trope that carries out through the childhood of the babies that were conceived.

Essentially, the parents’ genetics were so messed up by the treatments performed by the doctor that they start turning into something different from human.  Something a bit more animalistic.  The children, of course, also have some of this animalistic genetics, but most of the differences don’t show up until puberty.  This allows the children to be innocents for most of the book while their parents have gone off the rails from their very first treatment.  My favorite part of this book is how it offers a smart critique of pushing our bodies to do something they don’t want to do.  Where is that line?  How far should we push things with science and at what point will using science make us something different from human?  And is that something different going to necessarily be better?  Leslie clearly feels that her children were ultimately worth everything she, her husband, and their bodies went through, but the book itself leaves the answer to that question up to the reader.

Beyond this concept, though, the actual execution of the characterizations and the plot get a bit messy.  The writing can sometimes wander off onto tangents or become repetitive.  Some aspects of the plot are explored too much whereas others are glossed over too quickly.  The book starts out tightly written and fast-paced but toward the end of the book the plot gets disjointed and goes a bit off the rails.  Part of the issue is a bit of a lack of continuity regarding just how messed up Leslie and Alex actually are by the treatments.  Are they still at all human or are they completely untrustworthy?  Is there any possibility of redemption for them?  At first both seem equally far gone but then Leslie seems to pull back from the edge a bit, thanks to a MacGuffin.  It’s hard to be frightened of the situation if the frightening aspect of the parents comes and goes at will.

Similarly, in spite of the book wanting us to root for Alice and Adam (the twins Leslie and Alex have), it’s hard to really feel for them when they come across as extraordinarily two-dimensional, particularly Alice.  Children characters can be written in a well-rounded way, and when it’s well-done, it’s incredible.  Here, though, Alice and Adam seem to mostly be fulfilling the role of children and not of fully fleshed characters.

Most of these issues are more prevalent in the second half of the book, so it’s no surprise the ending is a bit odd and feels like it leaves the reader hanging.  I was surprised to find out there’s a sequel, as I thought this was a standalone book.  On the one hand I’m glad there’s another one, because the story isn’t finished.  On the other, I’m not a fan of such total cliffhanger endings.

Overall, the first half of the book offers up a thrilling and horrifying critique of just how far people should be willing to go to get pregnant.  The second half, however, is not as tightly plotted and drops the well-rounded characterization found in the first half of the book.  Recommended to pregnancy and/or genetic modification horror enthusiasts who may be interested in a different twist but won’t be disappointed by a cliffhanger ending.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

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Banner for the RIP IX challenge.

5 More Questions About Books

February 25, 2010 6 comments

You guys may remember the previous meme post I did 5 Questions About Books, which I acquired from Syosset Public Library’s Readers and Reference blog.  Well, the lovely Sonia of the library, contacted me with the complete list of questions they use in case I wanted to do another meme!  Gotta love my fellow librarians 😉  So here’s 5 More Questions About Books, and as before, feel free to use the meme yourself.

What book is on your nightstand right now?:
The Angry Heart: Overcoming Borderline and Addictive Disorders: An Interactive Self-Help Guide by Joseph Santoro, PhD.  It’s a great book, and I highly recommend it!

What is a book you’ve faked reading?:
Bleak House by Charles Dickens.  It was assigned for a required course in British literature.  I attempted to read it, but after a couple of chapters and with the other homework I had going on that semester, Sparknotes became my very dear friend.  For the record, I aced the exam questions on it. 😉

What’s a book that’s changed your life?:
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.  I was raised in a very traditional, religious, patriarchal manner, and this book was what spurred me on to investigate other ways of looking at the world.  Needless to say, I am no longer religious; I am a feminist.  This book is what started me on the path to free-thought, and I will always love Margaret Atwood for that.

Can you quote a favorite line from a book?:
“…If death
Consort with thee, death is to me as life;
So forcible within my heart I feel
The bond of nature draw me to my own;
My own in thee, for what thou art is mine:
Our state cannot be severed, we are one,
One flesh; to lose thee were to lose myself.”
Adam to Eve, Paradise Lost by John Milton.  One of my favorite quotes of all time.

What’s your favorite book genre?:
This should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone, but dystopian literature followed closely by scifi with horror a super-duper close third.