The obscenely wealthy Twisdens seem to have it all. Alex comes from a long, long line of rich snobs, and his wife, Leslie, has a bright future in publishing and is truly in love with Alex. Yeah, nauseating. But don’t worry, their situation quickly changes. After years of marriage and still no heir to the Twisden dynasty, Alex and Leslie fear that procreation is not in their future. Alex, however, stumbles upon a questionable fertility doctor somewhere in the depths of Slovenia. Believing that this is their last hope, Alex drags a hesitant Leslie on a journey to visit Dr. Kis. Kis, an angry and frightening little man, carries out a series of painful injections on the Twisdens and bids them farewell. Sure enough, Leslie quickly finds herself knocked up. She also finds herself gradually covered in a course hair and with a newfound appetite for dog. Alex has developed similar traits, but they try to shrug it off and enjoy the certainty of an impending child.
Ten years later, the couple has a set of healthy twins, Alice and Adam. But their wealth is dwindling since Alex doesn’t work much anymore and Alice has abandoned her job. Moreover, the twins are starting to ask questions, particularly in regards to the constant disappearance of family pets and the fact that Alice and Adam must be locked in their bedrooms each night.
Novak touches on concepts ranging from playing god to the fact that our culture is never quite satisfied with what we have; we always must have just one more thing. The Twisdens literally have everything but a child, and the quest for a child completely destroys them. Meanwhile, Dr. Kis enables infertile couples to have children through a very unnatural means; for some reason, nature did not want these individuals to reproduce, but Kis alters that and literally causes destruction and death.
Good job, Novak; that stuff is pretty interesting and has the potential to be at least somewhat deep. Unfortunately, Novak stops short of pursuing these ideas and instead loses the reins of his story. The problem is the constant introduction of new, intriguing ideas. There’s a pack of “wild” children that freely roam Central Park, all left to their own devices because their parents are not quite right. There’s that strange serum that Kis injects in his patients – he suggests it has animal components, but we are never told more details. Then there is the looming question of what exactly happens when these children hit puberty – hinted at repeatedly but never fully addressed. Breed is not long enough to clean up all of these loose ends, but that doesn’t excuse Novak from leaving everything unresolved. There is a copout ending (I won’t spoil it for you, but it is aggravating and made me so angry I could eat a dog), and there is absolutely no closure. Breed is an excellent example of a book that could have been amazing, but it’s just another good concept gone to waste.