Brood by Chase Novak (Mulholland, Oct 7th, 2014)-There are inevitable spoilers for Breed, the first book in this series. Proceed at your own risk.
Here’s the thing. Breed, and subsequently Brood, are very scary, gory, creepy, sometimes over the top, and frequently satirical, so if you like this sort of thing (I do), then you’ll like these books. Chase Novak, aka Scott Spencer, is a pro, and he writes horror like he’s having the time of his life doing it, and it shows. The story so far is this: Adam and Alice Twisden are twins, about 13 at this point (about 2 years on from the events of Breed). They are ethereally lovely, very smart, and also very streetwise, having been shuttled from foster home to foster home since the deaths of their parents. Finally, their Aunt Cynthia, a displaced antiques dealer (and their mother’s sister), has gotten custody of them, and she’s ecstatic. The twins? Not so much. Or rather, Adam seems ok with the arrangement, but Alice longs for a much different type of arrangement. This is where Brood begins, with the custody hearing of the twins, and their move back into their parent’s renovated Manhattan manse, also the site of many horrible things. As we learned in Breed, the twins were conceived via a profligate and very corrupted process involving some questionable DNA and a Slovenian doctor, and the treatments drove their parents to cannibalism, and worse, until their rather spectacular deaths.
We only got a glimpse of the wild children roaming various parts of Manhattan and the wilds of Central Park in Breed, but here, they are front and center, alongside Cynthia’s desperate struggle to keep the twins safe and give them a stable home. Adam immediately takes to Cynthia, but Alice hears the siren song of Rodolfo, the boy king of the Central Park clan of genetically twisted children. They’ve been keeping themselves in room and board by selling their blood, dubbed Zoom, to those that want to experience the surge of lust and strength that comes from its ingestion. Meanwhile, a testing facility has been rounding up the children for experimentation, determined to find out what makes them tick, and Rodolfo is struggling with the seemingly inevitable need to move his unique family elsewhere.
I kind of loved hanging out with these genetically evolved feral children, who behave exactly as rudderless, and physically unearthly children would. They live in relative squalor, revel in their wondrous abilities, and are fiercely protective of each other, and while the parent in me bristled at Alice’s dismissal of Cynthia’s affection, it’s also not hard to root for these very special kids, who, through no fault of their own, must learn to live, the best way they can, with differences that are beyond the pale, constantly dodging those that would use them and hurt them.
On the flipside, Cynthia loves these kids with a fierceness that every parent will understand, and when they run away from her, she struggles with the helplessness and hopelessness of her situation, in a huge house that is starting to be more trouble than it’s worth (Can you say rats, three times? Multiply that by a hundred.) The scenes with the kids are alternately wondrous and terrifying (their animal natures are something to behold, and certainly to fear), but the real creeps come from Cynthia’s experiences in that big old house, all alone. Mix all this in with some spot on social commentary on our want-it-all culture, some pitch black humor, plus a fairly nonstop pace, and you’ve got a win. I kind of love these books-they’re all kinds of scary fun-and I have a couple of ideas where things might go from here, even after a bit of a heartbreaking conclusion. Here’s hoping.