Book Review: BREED by Chase Novak

Thank the marketing department for the intrigue generated by this one. It certainly has an excellent hook: “A couple struggling to have a child, undergo treatment to have one, but once their kids are born, the unlucky siblings begin to realize that there’s something amiss with their parents.” It seems like a nice twist on a familiar theme, but alas, it isn’t. The writing is excellent, the pacing serviceable, and yet the whole novel feels broken somehow. Good ideas go unexplored, characters who spend a lot of time in the foreground still somehow never have time to fully develop. There’s nary a sympathetic character in the bunch, so it was hard to really care what became of any of them. The descriptions are lavish and detailed, almost too much so. There are sections of the book that feel as though the author was transcribing straight from Architectural Digest.

As for the story, what could have been a white-knuckle creeper fails to rise above cliche, reading more like a non-horror writer’s idea of original. Worse, it seems a little self-congratulatory at times, when anyone familiar with the genre will know pretty much every beat pages before it happens. Also off-putting is the glee with which Novak puts his upper-class characters through the ringer, the implication being that they deserve their fate purely because they’re rich. Whether or not the author intended it to come across that way, it does, and it’s an unpalatable idea. Not that the middle- or lower-class fare much better. Breed is a novel full of unpleasant people doing unpleasant things to one another, with no suspense to tether the whole thing together. Rather, it reads more like a book written with the big screen in mind, which makes the news of the recent film deal no surprise.

Overall, the prose was excellent (if at times a little showy and overwrought), the premise intriguing enough to keep me from giving up on it (though more than once I felt tempted), but there’s nothing here that hasn’t been done before, and much better. A disappointment.

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