Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.
This week’s featured book is Breed by Chase Novak:
- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Mulholland Books (September 4, 2012)
- ISBN-10: 0316198560
- Source: Publisher
Alex and Leslie Twisden have the perfect lives. Alex is a successful lawyer and Leslie works at a New York City children’s publishing house. They live in a gorgeous townhouse in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Their marriage is a passionate one, full of love and respect. Despite all the luxuries they have, they are still missing something: a child. They’ve tried every fertility procedure imaginable, visited endless doctors and specialists. Yet they have still been able to get pregnant. Out of desperation, they attend a support group for infertile couples in the basement of a local church. Someone there must have a suggestion or recommendation for something they haven’t tried yet. It is when they are walking home from group one night that they come across a couple who used to be members of the group. It doesn’t take long for Alex and Leslie to see why they have stopped attending: the woman is pregnant.
Reluctantly, after the husband has secured a job at Alex’s firm, he shares with Alex their secret: they visited a doctor, Doctor Kis, in Slovenia who was able to grant their wish to become parents. Within a few days Alex & Leslie travel to see the doctor themselves and undergo a brutally painful procedure involving a number of injections. Kis doesn’t speak English so the couple is uncertain as to what the injections consist of. Leslie is reluctant to take part in the procedure; it is Alex that has been so adamant about having children of their own rather than adopting. That said, her love for Alex is strong and, admittedly, she’s worried he will leave her if they can’t conceive.
The procedure is a success and Leslie quickly becomes pregnant. It isn’t long before she beings to have strange symptoms, the biggest one an dramatic increase in body hair. The doctor she visits, referred to her by Dr. Kis, insists that this is a natural side-effect of pregnancy. Leslie feels alien in her own body and looks forward to getting to the end of the pregnancy and to be rewarded with the gift for which they’ve worked so hard. She doesn’t have to wait long for she is barely in her fifth month when she delivers triplets: two, a boy and a girl, survive.
Ten years later, twins Adam and Alice find themselves locked in their rooms each night. The sounds that come from their parents bedroom at night terrify them. Adam obtains an old baby monitor and eavesdrops on his parents, truly terrified from what he hears. They are fearful for their own lives, yet with the doors locked, prison bars on the windows, how can they escape? Eventually they are able to leave the prison they’ve inhabited their entire lives. When they escape, however, they soon learn just how dangerous their parents are and uncover the secret of their creation. After discovering a group of feral children in Central Park, the twins soon learn they aren’t alone, that there are dozens of children just like them…
On the surface, Breed is just another terrifying horror novel. Rich with terror and a fair amount of gruesome details, it fits perfectly in this genre. That said, in a sick and twisted way, it’s also a novel of parental love. Alex and Leslie honestly love their twins, yet the fate that has been dealt to them as a result of this medical procedure also has them craving them, hence the need to lock them up each night. They don’t want to harm their children, but their animal instincts, heightened due to the injections they received, are hard to resist. Adam and Alice remember the moments of love and happiness they infrequently experienced growing up, and are therefore torn between fleeing for their own safety and remaining, hopeful that the “good days” outweigh the bad.
Novak has created a truly dark and chilling novel, reminiscent of some of the classic horror novels like Rosemary’s Baby. That said, I think this novel is far more terrifying, because it isn’t the child(ren) to be feared in this case, but the parents who are supposed to take care of these children.
Breed is a truly unique, wholly terrifying read. The pacing is fast and the storyline is engaging, thereby producing a truly fantastic and original piece of horror fiction. Highly recommended (but not to those with a queasy stomach).