I quickly learned, while reading Brood, that my habit of picking up a book whenever I sit down for a bite to eat is maybe not always the best idea. Because — ick. This book would be best read on an empty stomach. Preferably in broad daylight.
That is, assuming that most people would be squicked out by rat infestations, contemplation of which human body parts are edible, and random eviscerations. But, you know, if you’re okay with all that, then by all means, enjoy this book with a hamburger or something.
Brood is the sequel to last year’s Breed, Chase Novak’s horror-filled cautionary tale about the unintended consequences of medical experimentation and the narcissistic need of 1%ers to reproduce, fertility problems be damned.
[Caution: This review includes spoilers related to Breed. You’ve been warned.]
In Breed, ultra-wealthy Alex and Leslie Twisden have everything money can buy, except the ability to produce offspring. At the end of their quest for legitimate treatment, they turn to a hush-hush supposed miracle cure available through a shady doctor in Eastern Europe.
This is not a good idea.
Much mayhem ensues. It’s not pretty. But hey, they do at least have kids!
RIP, Alex and Leslie. And lots of cats and dogs and mice.
In Brood, the offspring — twins Adam and Alice — are 12 years old, and as the story picks up, their aunt Cynthia has just finalized adoption papers, bringing them back home after two years stuck in the foster system. The twins are small for their age, suffering from massive eating disorders, and not at all used to shelter, comfort, and parental love. Cynthia, previously childless, has the idea that she can be a true mother to the twins, and through the power of unconditional love, give them the normal adolescence they deserve and create an ideal home for their little family of three. She’s wrong, of course.
Meanwhile, packs of feral children roam Central Park, a new drug called Zoom is making the rounds of wealthy people looking for their next kick, and a shady research firm is paying a whack-job weirdo to kidnap the wild kids for non-voluntary medical research.
Brood is a quick read. Also a really gross read. (My Goodreads updates: 21%: Ew. 46%: Ew. 92%: Ew.) The action is heavy-duty, animalistic, stalkery/threatening, and — it bears repeating — gross. There’s a lot of time spent on Cynthia’s mental state, which isn’t actually as interesting as the author seems to think it is. Characters are introduced and then dropped. There’s follow-through from Breed, but not consistently.
Some interesting questions are raised about what it means to be human. The science is a bit iffy, but we don’t really know what that fertility treatment actually entailed, so sure, why not have a new breed of children with unknown DNA patterns, unpredictable development, unconventional appetites, and an undefined step along the evolutionary ladder?
Plus, the idea of preteens running on all fours through the streets of Manhattan? Kind of cool, to be honest.
Last year, after writing a review of Breed, I also wrote a post outlining what I saw as the major lingering questions. Brood ties up some, but not all, of the loose ends left at the end of Breed, which makes me wonder: Is there another installment planned? Or did the author simply feel that some story elements weren’t worth pursuing in the sequel? Brood ends with some finality, but with enough wiggle room left for there to be more yet to come.
Meanwhile, the blood, guts, and rats make Brood a singularly revolting piece of reading. Definitely not for the squeamish. But if you read Breed and remain curious about the fate of all those feral kids, by all means, give Brood a try. For people who enjoy their horror on the chewy side, it’s an *engrossing* (sorry) read.
Author: Chase Novak
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Publication date: October 7, 2014
Length: 320 pages
Source: Review copy courtesy of Mulholland Books via NetGalley