Daniel I. Russell is the author of Entertaining Demons, Samhane, Retard, Come Into Darkness, Critique, The Collector Book 1: Mana Leak, Mother's Boys and the huge collection Tricks, Mischief and Mayhem. Daniel is a HWA active member and represented by the Tobias Literary Agency, NYC. Daniel has also been the vice-president of the Australian Horror Writers' Association, special guest editor of Midnight Echo, associate and technical editor for Necrotic Tissue, and Shadow Awards judge.
Samhane blog tour date 2 - Southern England
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Sunday, November 07, 2010Breeding Ground by Sarah Pinborough
Drum roll please...
AS followers of my reviews will know (and without being sexist), I'm constantly on the look out for a female writer who can stand shoulder to shoulder with the big boys, a writer who is not afraid of violence or gore or plain out shocking terror!
I've read another book from Pinborough, The Reckoning, and while it was an enjoyable ride with some great moments (and I'll never look at an ant the same way again) I felt there was still another horror gear that Sarah could slip into...probably with an easier transition than her horror-writing sisters.
Breeding Ground...I'd heard rumours about, I'd heard that this book is harrowing, so was keen to get hold of a copy. Is Pinborough the queen of balls to the wall horror?
Based on my reading, and for the moment, I'd have to say yes. But tenuously.
Breeding Ground follows a young professional couple, Matt, a mortgage advisor, and Chloe, a barrister (what no writer? Pinborough is awarded a point already!). The apocalypse comes slow, and through the women of the world. With their wifes, partners, mothers and sisters growing fat and displaying very odd symptoms of pregnancy, the men are too concerned with what's going on in their own homes rather than seeing the bigger picture. The governments are deathly silent, as they don't have a clue what's going on. Most men hide in the bliss of ignorance, or the bottle. Matt has bigger concerns, not only for the health of Cloe, but for their unborn baby.
Soon (within the first 50 pages) the severely altered females of the world give birth to spidery creatures. The earth now has a new dominant species. Matt flees, desperate to find survivors, but how will they survive this harsh new world?
The one thing I adore about this book is what I call the fake mirror shot. Every watched a horror film and the scream queen on screen (try saying that one five times fast!) is getting ready for a shower, for example. She opens the medicine cabinet mirror, closes it and then...! No, hang on. The killer ISN'T standing behind her in the reflection? Sneaky buggers! Sarah does this in spades as at times, you're 100% sure which way things are going to go, and then they simply don't. For example, the merry band of survivors (including a few women, but we'll come to that later) come across a military installation containing a few males survivors. 28 Days Later, I hear you cry? Soldiers wanting to rape the women? Yeah, that's what I thought. But no, Sarah stays away from the normal conventions.
In fact she has a very well thought yarn here. Some aspects you really don't see coming, including the quite bizarre but possibly solution to their problems. One of my problems with the novel though are that some questions remained unanswered. For example, while the cause of the spider epidemic is touched on, it's never explained. Nor is the sudden and extreme change of the English climate (although this review theorised how one was responsible for the other). And again, some women survive, and some merely take a lot longer to be infected. One reason for this was very apparent but what about the others.
Hopefully, this will all be rectified in the follow up book, Feeding Ground, which I'll have to get my grubby mits on, because the biggest problem with the book is the ending. It doesn't really have an ending. Like some of the characters discuss in the novel, this might only be the first phase. Who knows where it's going to go? Breeding Ground as it stands just kind of stops after the last big revelation...but boy...is it a corker of a revelation!
And yes, we have a female writer who can really dish out the gore! The first act of the book, Chloe's transformation, the birth of the spiders and Matt's first outing into the post apocalyptic world really are harrowing. An early scene, wherein Matt discovers his first widow (the term later adopted to the spiders) is truly tense and disturbing. Sarah also produces one of the most hated villains I've read in a long time. You don't need to have your bad guy be the master mind behind it all, etc. Sarah has created a character that was so easy to hate and have fun doing it!
In summary, while there is the odd problem (again, hopefully filled in by Feeding Ground, and speaking of filling in, why did the nice guy protagonist have sex with 75% of the fenale characters?) Breeding Ground is definitely worth a buy. Creature horror at its best - horrific, chilling and visceral.