Friday, February 3, 2012

Breeding Ground

Pregnant women are disgusting and cause a great deal of headache, only to spew forth nasty little insects from their wombs whose sole purpose is to ruin men’s lives and destroy the world. 

Spider Queen by ~SchwarzBitter

That’s either a quote directly from my husband, or the underlying message of Sarah Pinborough’s novel Breeding Ground.

I had to keep reminding myself that this book was written by a woman, because the men who took center stage were completely selfish and unlikable jerks…but none of them seemed aware of it. I came to the conclusion that these were men written through the eyes of a woman who thought she was getting it right, but really just thought poorly of men. The result was a bunch of incredibly illogical, one-dimensional male characters, who seemed -- at their best moments -- stereotypes of all the worst aspects of a man. 

It’s hard to find sociopaths relatable. After spending some time with the men of Breeding Ground I found myself rooting for the spiders, hoping to see each of the men devoured slowly -- sarlacc style. As far as they knew, every woman on Earth suddenly died – their mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, aunts – every woman they’ve ever come into contact with is gone, and their primary concern is only for their own skin, their hunger, their fear. Very little time is spent on mourning, very little thought turns sympathetic to the women. In fact, it’s not the loss of the narrator’s wife and child that haunts him, but rather the man he saw being eaten and left to die horribly when he ran instead of helping him. He goes from losing his wife to hooking up with every remaining adult female in the book, and only seemed somewhat attached to the very last one. Even with her, his greatest concern for her welfare stems from his own selfish need to not go through the loss of another wife and child. 

When the group of survivors first all get together and start sharing their stories, the main character hears the youngest of them talking about how he killed his mother in the tub before she had a chance to spawn a monster. For all this boy knew, his mother was very ill, but he kills her with a hammer and then doesn’t bother to report it or even go back out into the world until he no longer has TV and radio. Seriously, I have two teenage boys of my own, and I know sometimes the TV is the most important thing in their world, but that it was the loss of his MTV that disturbed him enough to step outside, and not the death of his mother or even the reek of her rotting corpse, really says something about that kid, and it’s not that he was “strong” as the narrator implies. 

I feel the author mistakes masculine strength and the ability to “soldier on” with being devoid of emotion and completely self involved. Or maybe they were all just really really British, and I just couldn’t follow. 

On the aspect of this sudden apocalypse, however, I found a lot of it very hard to believe. I think if women just stopped coming out of their houses one day, it would be all over the news and internet. I think very few people would be able to hide away in their houses without knowing something was going on. That no one seemed to notice anything negative taking place anywhere but right under their noses in their own homes, smacks of TSTL characters. But again…maybe they were just really British?

Then there is the issue of combating the spiders. Deaf people’s blood? F’serious? And…we’re not going to explain that in any way? All the science in Breeding Ground reminded me of that scene of the writing class from Throw Mama from the Train:

It’s generally a good idea to know a little bit about your subject before writing on it. GMO’s caused this – how? The women (and later the men) became infected – how? The scientist’s first idea to help cure the first infected male is to have him drink a pint of human blood – why? Why not try to cut them out first? Why not try to inject the lumps with a little bit of blood first? Why not try targeted radiation? Chemotherapy? Why not try any number of treatments used currently to treat other infested cycts like in cases of Echinococcosis?

I hate spiders. I have an honest to god phobia of them, but even I had a hard time being afraid of these critters once some explanations about their origins came out. It stopped looking like something that had some remote possibility to happen one day, or even just some strange, terrifying occurrence having an unexplainable origin such as aliens or magic, to something badly explained and completely unbelievable. Couple that with action scenes that almost compel one to skim because they linger too long in build up, description, or internal monologue, and the scare is gone. 

I will say one thing though, I am very glad I live in the states. As much as I find it amusing and a little disturbing that I can go buy a shotgun at Walmart, I think, should an ugly apocalypse come, I would count it a blessing. Here in the American south, I have a feeling there would be less  “Widows” and lots more splattered spider guts all over the place … and no women around to tell the surviving men, “No dear, you are not mounting that creepy thing’s head in the dining room.” 

Unfurl by ^pullingcandy


Sara said...

I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment. The events and characters in this book lacked any sort of core of truth for me, and I felt Pinborough spent too much time on disgusting descriptions and pseudo-science and not enough time developing believable, sympathetic characters. Or stitching up plot holes. When the main character rings so false, it's hard to pay enough attention to get into the story at all. When a character of Matt's age doesn't notice other women at all, until suddenly they're gone, because he's so smitten with his girlfriend, and then after the death of said girlfriend, suddenly wants every woman he meets... It really does make one wonder about Pinborough's opinion of men.

Cin Ferguson said...

Ooooh, I use DeviantArt for all my posts, and I'm so jealous I didn't find your first one, FIRST! :) Nice job. Any your second pic was excellent! Your beginning quote, priceless. I thought your critique of this piece was spot on. I gave Pinborough points for creepy descriptions but on a 1 to 5 rating for sci-fi background, she got a 1. I wasn't so worried about her portrayal of some males as you were (I'm almost 50, some of those descriptions are accurate), but like you I had a problem with 'only deaf people's blood' getting rid of the widows, and the GMO thing. Also, I grew up in Virginia, and I'm not a gun-monger, but no one I know would just sit around in a compound and 'wait' for something to happen. They'd be kickin some serious spider ass. Nuff-said. Great posting. Well done.


Christopher Shearer said...

Sarah has some crazy male fans and stalkers. I'm sure that influenced her opinion. Yeah, this book was lackluster, but the "widows" were great monsters, if you ignored their backstory and weakness, and the protagonists, and the holes in the plot . . .

S.N. Graves said...

LOL So what you are saying is, if you completely disregard the book as a whole, it had some neat-o monsters! I can get behind that. :)

Anonymous said...

I couldn't wait to finish this book and never pick it up again. I completely agree with your comment about Pinborough's characterization of males. I wrote about it in my blog as well.

I'll say there were definite plot holes, like weaponized deaf blood. I think one that bothered me the most is the book was supposed to be a document about the events and Mike says so on page 124, then writes a three page sex scene. I couldn't get passed why a person would write about every hand stroke in a document meant to be read widely.

S.N. Graves said...

Jay, you are so right!I can't believe I missed that.I think the author probably just lost sight of where she was going with the whole sex scene. I think it probably would have been glossed over.

Paul Naughton said...

This book has a lot, and I do mean a lot of bad material in it... not just the characterization but also in the plot design, science, and all that. So much is wrong and the story uses 1st person telling techniques that really don't capture the horrific nature of the events and what's been witnessed.

It's a mess... I was hoping it would get better but it really didn't and I feel a bit vexed in a lot of ways with the novel.

Jennifer Loring said...

Just wanted to add that I love your post, and I am totally on board with how much this book sucked, from the "science" to the very bad characterization. I had the same thought, that she really doesn't seem to like men very much. How anyone could find Matt sympathetic boggles my mind.

Kate Martin said...

Agreed. I agree with everything you said. The characters were unlikable, the situation unbelievable and the science unreasonable. I, too, had to keep wondering at the gender of the author.
I admire your ability to think so clearly about it all. My brain was so blown, I felt like words had failed me.
Really? Would men really not notice the lack of women in the streets? Would anyone? The women not yet infected sure as heck would.
And, intriguing to know that while spiders are a fear of yours, these monsters still didn't work for you. Spiders don't bother me, so I thought that might have been part of the equation on my end.