Book Review: Brood by Chase Novak

broodI 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.


The details:

Title: Brood
Author: Chase Novak
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Publication date: October 7, 2014
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Horror
Source: Review copy courtesy of Mulholland Books via NetGalley

Thursday Quotables – the Halloween edition: Brood


Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

Warning: This week’s selection is not for the squeamish! If you have an aversion to all things icky, look away now.



 Brood by Chase Novak
(published October 7, 2014)

RestorePro’s workers, decked out in muck boots, respirators, and HAZMAT suits, had swooped in. Of course, the worst thing about the cleanup was the blood, the hair, the fur, and the bones, and the teeth, the parts of bodies for which neither Alex nor Leslie had a taste — they both eschewed ears, and found feet as a rule inedible.

The sequel to Breed is proving to be just as disturbing and disgusting as the first book… and what does it say about me that I’ve read 25% and I’m enjoying it very much so far?

Happy Halloween!

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (, if you’d be so kind!
  • Leave your link in the comments — or, if you have a quote to share but not a blog post, you can leave your quote in the comments too!
  • Visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

Book Review: Breed by Chase Novak

Book Review: Breed by Chase Novak

Talk about having nightmarish parents.

In Breed by Chase Novak, the pursuit of fertility literally turns people into monsters. Chase Novak is the pen name of author Scott Spencer (Endless Love, A Ship Made of Paper), who here turns his talents toward a truly yucky horror tale. Alex and Leslie Twisden are young, attractive, and very well-to-do. Alex is the scion of old, old money, with a home full of priceless belongings and a beautiful, engaging younger wife. Alex and Leslie have it all, except for the one element outside of their control: They can’t seem to make a baby. After three years of progressively invasive and expensive infertility treatments, all to no avail, Alex and Leslie are just about ready to call it quits when they stumble upon a hush-hush miracle treatment offered by a doctor in Slovenia. Before you can say “uh-oh”, they’re off to Ljubljana for a scary, painful procedure from a shady doctor, who proclaims:

We are turning a quiet glade in the forest into a teeming spot in the jungle. Life, life, everywhere life, wanting, taking, growing. We are going to turn you on. Up high. Like teenager and creature of the wild. Nothing will hold you back. Life! Life!

Back at their hotel for the one night they plan to stay in Slovenia, Leslie and Alex are indeed turned on, and wake the next morning to find their hotel room completely and utterly demolished and their bodies covered in scratches and bite marks. Sure enough, the treatment has worked, and Leslie embarks upon a pregnancy that is more than she bargained for, as both she and Alex experience disturbing and drastic changes to their bodies.

All that, and it’s only the first 40 pages of the book. Before long, Leslie has delivered, and we move into part II of the book, set 10 years later, as twins Adam and Alice struggle to find safety in a world in which their home is the most dangerous place of all. Each night, Adam and Alice are locked into their own rooms and then let out again in the morning. Their parents are inconsistently protective, allowing them no playdates or afterschool activities, walking them to and from school each day more as guards than nurturing parents. We learn pretty quickly what the twins know of their world: strange, wild noises come from their parents’ bedroom at night, the cellar is always locked, and it’s best not to get too attached to the random pets that come into their lives and then quickly disappear. Alex and Leslie no longer go to work, instead selling off Alex’s inherited wealth bit by bit and allowing their house itself to crumble into garbage-strewn, corrupted ruin.

Adam and Alice’s flight toward freedom triggers a calamitous collapse of their already shaky lives, and as they innocently involve others in their plight, the potential for violence explodes all around them. The adults in their lives are either feral savages or ineffectual benign beings who can’t quite manage to save themselves or the children from the awfulness that pursues them. Numerous sequences involve chase scenes all over Manhattan, as its streets teem with life both wildly dangerous and recklessly free. The action builds to a more or less inevitable end, as horrifying events grow one upon the other.

Ultimately, my feelings on this book are mixed. I am not a horror aficionado, and therefore can’t assess whether Breed is really a top-notch entry in the genre. From a fiction reader’s point of view, however, I can say that Breed has a lot going for it, although the ending felt a bit flat and predictable to me. As the action in the middle of the book escalates, I couldn’t look away, despite the unfailingly horrific and gross (really, there’s no other word for it) nature of the scenes. By the end, though, there weren’t very many surprises left, and I didn’t walk away from the book feeling that the early promise of the story had truly paid off.

Is this a cautionary tale about the vanity that can become enmeshed in the no-holds-barred quest for reproduction? Early in Breed, Leslie tells Alex that she’s ready to quit:

Alex, I want us to adopt. I’m sick of living this way. I’m tired of doctors, and diets, and I am most of all worried… I am worried about what this is doing to us. Our marriage. Our souls.

But Alex is insistent upon one last try:

All your kindness and intelligence and beauty — it would be a waste not to pass it along, not to keep it in the world. The gene pool cries out for it!

Of course, the irony is that by pursuing that one miracle cure, the gene pool itself is compromised, so that it’s left extremely questionable what in fact has been passed along to the next generation. It’s doubtful that the inheritance will have any resemblance to kindness, intelligence, or beauty. Clearly, Leslie was right to worry.