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Guest Review: Breed by Chase Novak (4/5 Stars)

Reviewer: Brooks—Blog

Release Date: September 4, 2012

Publisher:  Mulholland Books

Age Group: Adult

Pages: 320

Format: Hardcover

ISBN0316198560

Rating: 

Alex and Leslie Twisden lead charmed lives-fabulous jobs, a luxurious town house on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, a passionate marriage. What they don’t have is a child, and as they try one infertility treatment after the next, yearning turns into obsession. As a last-ditch attempt to make their dream of parenthood come true, Alex and Leslie travel deep into Slovenia, where they submit to a painful and terrifying procedure that finally gives them what they so fervently desire … but with awful consequences.

Ten years later, cosseted and adored but living in a house of secrets, the twins Adam and Alice find themselves locked into their rooms every night, with sounds coming from their parents’ bedroom getting progressively louder, more violent, and more disturbing.

Driven to a desperate search for answers, Adam and Alice set out on a quest to learn the true nature of the man and woman who raised them. Their discovery will upend everything they thought they knew about their parents and will reveal a threat so horrible that it must be escaped, at any cost.”

-Goodreads

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Halloween’s my favorite holiday.

And it’s not just because of the endless amounts of candy I can always find on sale during this time of year. It’s not due to the incessant barrage of cheap rubber witch and werewolf masks. I don’t love it simply because of the pseudo-scary movies the SyFy channel plays during its 31 days of Halloween programming.

You see, soon after Labor Day, every store in America (by contract of the American Union of Stores) is required to begin putting out its first Halloween displays and I swear…nothing pleases me more.

But for me, Halloween isn’t all about the scares. It’s about the fun in the scares. If all I really wanted was to be scared, I’d have my friends prank call me to say my wife had been in a horrible car wreck, or I’d make myself watch reruns of the RNC at full volume.

No, for me Halloween is a time where parents all over this country encourage their kids to peel back the layers of training, to disregard years of deeply engrained social cues, and to reveal the wonderfully juicy core of dark and creepy playfulness.

In short, it’s the time of year when mayhem becomes fun.

Alright all you little anarchists out there, I know what you’re thinking, but trust me…that’s not always the case. However, when we’re given something like an entire holiday that sets death, destruction, and monsters up to be fun…well then we’ve got something special.

And when we’ve got a book that can do the exact same thing? Well, then we’ve got ourselves all of Halloween crammed in between two covers, ready to be unleashed at a moment’s notice.

Breed by Chase Novak does just that.

The author sets up a seemingly ordinary world with Alex and Leslie Twisden, a couple who wants nothing more than to fill their lavish New York home with a child of their own. Even all the money in the world, though (and trust me, Alex has about 90% of it), can’t put a bun in Leslie’s oven.

Then just when Leslie suggests adoption for the umpteenth time, her hubby runs into a co-worker who had been in the same boat as our lovely couple just weeks ago. But now, Alex finds out that his buddy and his wife have somehow beaten the odds, have somehow slapped infertility across the cheek, have somehow…gotten pregnant!

It’s a miracle and with a tad bit of convincing, Alex and Leslie are off to Slovenia (because that’s where baby-making miracles happen, folks) to meet Dr. Bow-chicka-bow-wow and become the parents they’ve always wanted to become.

Fast forward ten years and the real story picks up.

Yes. Alex and Leslie have become parents to a wonderful set of twins.

But, no. They’re not the parents they wanted to become.

In fact…they’re quite the opposite.

Our new heroes, Adam and Alice have no idea that their parents have become a pair of blood-drinking, squirrel-eating, hair-sprouting, furniture-chewing monsters. In fact, Adam and Alice don’t know much of anything about their parents since mommy and daddy keep them locked in their basement rooms every single night.

All they know is what they hear coming from upstairs.

And what they hear scares them very, very much.

While Novak does take a long time to set up a back story between two main characters that soon become two supporting characters after the birth of their children, it’s completely necessary. You see, we’re meant to sympathize with Alex and Leslie, not hate them for eating the mailman. And we really do end up sympathizing with them.

Even though they’re bad parents and they want to devour their children.

This sympathy is vital because during the third act of the book, the focus is put, once again, on the parents and their quest to find a cure.

Now, I’ve analyzed this book to death (macabre pun intended), stripped it down to its bare bones (intended again), slurped up every bloody page and spat it back out (yep), to discover the reason I believe Novak achieves such a seamless transition between a one-act prologue and the actual chapter one.

It’s because he keeps the deliciously creepy tone continuous throughout the moments of dark comedy. This is the book’s undeniable strength. It never alternates between humor and horror, but twists them together so tightly that we’re not sure when we’re supposed to laugh and when we’re supposed to cringe.

The book is written in a third person present tense which gives it a particularly sharp edge of suspense. We’re there with Adam and Alice every step of the way, not reading about what happened to them years ago. There’s something refreshingly eerie about that present tense and it gives the book a lighter-than-normal feel. This helps to balance out the heft of dark that Novak injects into the world of Adam and Alice. The overall effect is a nice balance of the two and we end up with a slightly whimsical layer of fat free icing on top of a rich and dense dark chocolate cake.

In short, Breed is simply delicious.

And it’s a surprisingly quick read. Novak gives us two pairs of characters that we genuinely care about and while the book could easily be pitched as a low concept, character driven piece of work (and it should be thought of that way in my opinion), it’s also a high concept horror story.

Halloween’s almost here, folks, and Breed needs to be at the top of your to-read list. It’s the classic tale of evil baby/innocent mom re-imagined and re-told on its head. It’s a fairy tale gone wrong. It’s a spooky story done right.

It’s Halloween in a box.

Without the cheap rubber masks, of course.

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Thanks for the awesome review Brooks!

Happy reading!

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