Saturday, June 07, 2008

BREEDING GROUND by Sarah Pinborough

Matt and Chloe are a successful young couple from the idyllic English village of Stony Stratford--Chloe is a beautiful and talented lawyer, while Matt sells mortgages. They are very much in love and their world is a promising and brilliant place until Chloe begins to gain weight. At first it's only a few pounds, but it quickly begins to build--her thin frame becomes engorged with strange, almost inhuman bulges. And that's not all; Chloe's personality also begins to change. She becomes angry, removed, and downright strange. She claims to communicate with a friend in London with her mind, and she takes a liking to raw meat.

What Matt doesn't realize is the rest of Stony Stratford's women are experiencing the same changes and it's only a matter of weeks before the village streets are quiet and empty. The women are gone; they were used as breeders for a strange new species and the men devoured as food. The few survivors stumble together searching for companionship, protection, and peace. The small group of survivors Matt joins consists of a five men and three women; one of them a young girl. Their hope of a future is secured in the idea of reaching a military research base, but there is a world of danger and potential death in between.

Breeding Ground was an unexpected treat. Its subject matter compelling--who can resist a tale of apocalyptic proportions? Its focus squarely on the horror of the passing of humanity; there are no scientific discussions of why it happened, other than the obligatory, and Ms Pinborough competently develops an overwhelming anxiety that permeates the story. The characters are well-crafted servants of the plot--they are likable, strong, and very much worth rooting for without the bog-down of over-analysis. The plot is well-conceived and executed and while it is familiar there are enough twists to keep it fresh and interesting.

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