Short Take: Stick with teen romance.
Chase Novak is a pseudonym of Scott Spencer, better known for his novel Endless Love, among others. I don’t know why he’d use a pseudonym for a horror novel, as anyone who has read Endless Love can attest to a certain horrifyingly graphic scene. Be that as it may, I just couldn’t get in to Breed.
Breed begins with a well-to-do New York couple, Alex and Leslie Twisden, who are suffering from infertility. Neither of them is getting any younger, and although many of the most expensive treatments have failed, they decide to take one last, desperate chance. They fly to Slovenia to meet with Dr. Kis, a man who has had remarkable success with his unorthodox treatment methods.
It seems fairly pedestrian at first, a couple of injections, and they are free to go. Leslie becomes pregnant right away, and they are ecstatic. However, this being a horror novel, there’s a price to pay for their happiness. Soon, they both begin changing, becoming hairier, angrier, and hungrier.
The second act picks up 10 years later, when their twins finally get tired of being locked up every night (not to mention their disappearing pets, and the awful noises from the basement), and run away. Most of the rest of the book is the parents hunting their children, and the children trying to escape. They are aided by Michael Medoff, a teacher at the exclusive school they attend, as well as Rodolfo, leader of a group of “wild children” who live in abandoned properties and Central Park, and have dark secrets of their own.
The final act is the desperate race for a cure, a sacrifice, and a possible sequel set-up.
I just didn’t enjoy this book. The premise wasn’t terribly original – a mad scientist turning people into monsters dates at least as far back as Mary Shelley. I can’t say that it dragged, exactly, the last ¾ of the book is pretty much one giant chase scene, but it just didn’t feel that exciting. With the exception of the teacher, Mr. Medoff, none of the characters was particularly likeable, and none of them at all were interesting. The child protagonists had no real personalities. So when one of the characters is in danger, the reader’s reaction is along the lines of “meh”.
The plot also felt formulaic. For example, in EVERY horror novel involving children, the kids have to face the evil alone. The police don’t believe them, and the only adult who does is usually discredited for some reason (he’s the town drunk, or a veteran with PTSD, or, in this case, gay). However, this time, an adult actually calls the police from inside the house where the parents have committed the unspeakable acts. The police show up, and for no apparent reason, arrest the adult who called it in. That was when the book just broke for me.
Completely disregarding logic and sound storytelling JUST for the sake of upholding a formula that is already beyond tired is ridiculous. Every single plot point seemed to follow a template that has been done to death. A bad story can be saved with interesting characters, or some kind of fun, original premise, or a sense of humor in the dialogue. But when all of that is lacking, you get Breed.
The Nerd’s Rating: TWO HAPPY NEURONS