Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #scifi #thriller Broken Branches by Ben Ellis @b3n3llis

Today’s team review is from Sean, he blogs here http://ebookwormssite.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Sean has been reading Broken Branches by Ben Ellis

38470408

Summary

This is a quirky future dystopia, where the controlling powers seem to be muddling through in a very British way. They are not boots-to-the-throat controlling, but want stuff done with a minimum of fuss. It is eugenics for the future, with all of the selective breeding, incarceration and enforced sterilisation of “unfit” people. Broken Branches are not allowed to procreate, but there is a “work-around” application process. However, the prevailing sentiment seems to be “You mix champagne with dishwater, you still have sh***y dishwater”. All sorts of National Front, Aryan, etc. overtones going on.

For me personally, not an inviting future! Most men are sterile, for reasons which are outlined much later in the book. It is a class-driven society, between thoroughbreds on the one hand, and mutts/half-breeds/broken branches/whatever you want to call them on the other. Broken branches are those who have no genetic family history, so cannot take their place on the Family Tree.

The State is fixated on the genetic purity of the National Family Tree, so Thoroughbreds are allowed procreate once they receive approval, the others not. However, there seems to be some level of “inter-breeding” allowed. The genetic status of each potential parent is set out on the application form, and a majority of a randomly-selected jury of 40 “peers” [thoroughbreds] must approve each application.

This story is about two couples who slip through the net, having genetically advanced babies, and their journey.

Main Characters:

Tom Webb: Husband of Grace, he’s a thoroughbred. Nice guy, grown-up attitude to life, very supportive and defensive of is wife, and always looking to reassure her.

Grace Webb: Wife to Tom, a broken branch. No self-confidence, thinks Tom is with her due to an “undiscovered genetic defect”. Extremely paranoid about being exposed as a broken branch.

Charlie Falkland: Grace’s twin brother. Lad-about-town, a player with a relatively short fuse, and completely self-absorbed for about two-thirds of the book.

Anna Rock: Charlie’s thoroughbred one-night stand, who gets pregnant.

Head of Genetic Integrity: Sinister governmental figure looking to enhance his own reputation through using the babies as lab rats.

Minor Characters

Shears: Leader of the Gardeners, a domestic terrorist organisation dedicated to “rooting out the broken branches” who would dare try to propagate. The Gardeners are the “pruners for the pure”.

William Lanne: Grace and Charlie’s dad. Appears late on the scene, bit of a Deus Ex Machina character.

Gregory Rock: Anna’s dad. Appalled she is pregnant by a broken branch. A bit naïve.

Maiya Lanka: Charlie’s sometime ex, who gets cheated on. Later, she becomes some type of earth-mother figure (rhymes with Gaia??) figure.

 Plot:

We initially follow Tom and Grace, as they apply to become parents. They run a Gardener mob gauntlet to get to the relevant Ministry, seeing a broken branch being horrifically mutilated on the way, which causes severe trepidation in Grace.

In this case, the drugs DO work, and Grace becomes pregnant. The news is inadvertently broken at a family dinner, attended by Charlie and Maiya. Maiya is secretly upset, as she wanted to become a mother also, but her status as a broken branch kills that hope, She robs a couple of fertility tablets (hilariously named Go!Nads!}, and slips them into Charlie’s drink.

Charlie ends up finding and sleeping with Anna, a thoroughbred out on a hen night, and not knowing he’s on the ‘Nads he gets her pregnant. Dad is suitably not impressed.

The couples and unborn babies then become the subject of a search, from the deranged Gardeners who want to kill them, to Head who wants to analyse them, to William Lanne who wants to protect them, the background being a society’s descent into chaos as broken branches agitate to become part of the Tree (with accompanying benefits), and government scrambles to contain the movement.

What I Liked

  • There are original twists and plotlines, for example how men became sterile.
  • It is a fast-faced thriller, dressed up in dystopian clothes.
  • The plausibility of the eugenics story – it’s not so long since eugenics was considered serious science in pre-WWII USA, and it still has a large following today. I liked the author pointing out that medicine and science are NOT objective or neutral, and are used to forward particular social agendas.

What I Didn’t Like

  • The alternate chapter character device – just seemed unnecessary and was slightly off-putting. It lifted me out of the suspension of disbelief, and diminished the story for me.
  • The lack of reasoning behind men becoming sterile (voluntarily!) – again it felt like a forced plot issue. There could have been more done to get it better cemented into the story.

Overall

I’d give it a three star.

I think the author is not quite sure of his audience, or how he wants to book to be read.

Audience-wise, it’s hardly YA with the level of language the “alternative character” uses, yet it’s a bit too light on the thriller/world building for a fully-engaged adult reader.

Angle-wise, it has a light and easy tone, with some almost comedic moments in it (e.g. Charlie taking on the super-enhanced security guard in the helicopter). It has great potential and, with the amount of real history and human experience to draw on, I think the author could get to a deeper level with this story.

Acknowledgements:

Thanks to the author for giving me a free copy in return for an honest review.

Book description

All men are sterile. Fertility drugs are given only to couples whose genetic matches are approved. Those without a family history to prove their genetic heritage are outcast from society.

Grace is a broken branch. As an orphan, she has no link to The National Family Tree, so she and her husband, Tom, are ecstatic when they’re approved to have a baby. But that was the easy part. Grace’s twin brother inadvertently gets a girl pregnant after a one-night stand, and his girlfriend isn’t happy because it should’ve been her. Both sets of parents soon become the target of a violent terrorist group that advocates genetic purity. To make matters worse, there’s something strange about the unborn children that’s attracting government attention.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #Dystopia Broken Branches by Ben Ellis @b3n3llis

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Broken Branches by Ben Ellis

38470408

3 out of 5 stars

The basic plot:

In the future, all men in Britain are sterile. Fertility drugs for procreation are given only to couples whose genetic matches are approved by the state. Those without a family history to prove their genetic heritage are known as broken branches, treated as inferior citizens and not allowed to breed, so that the genetic purity of the National Family Tree will be preserved.  On presenting an application to have a child, each case is decided upon by a jury of over forty people, randomly chosen from the genetically approved public.

The novel contains some feasible ideas about the not too distant future: compulsory DNA sampling at birth, genetic enhancement of a foetus being the norm, and, of course, the necessity for health insurance, usually provided by an employer, which some say we are heading towards sooner rather than later.  Mr Ellis shows some nice turns of phrase and imaginative metaphors, and I liked some of the philosophy (often inner dialogue) about the human race as a whole.

On the whole, though, I felt the finished article needed a bit more thinking through. I needed to know straight away why all the men were sterile, but it is not revealed until half way through.  Several generations before, a male contraceptive pill had been introduced in order to control population, that ended up causing sterility.  Hmm.  I’m not convinced that many men would take it in the first place, given that virility is an important element of the masculine identity.  A character called Maiya doesn’t know she is infertile until told by a doctor that she was the victim of a government sterilisation programme, but neither we nor Maiya are told what this programme was, and for some reason she doesn’t ask.  I had too many unanswered questions, generally.

Other stuff I liked: early on, the ‘pub culture’ scenes are well done and authentic.  When protagonists Grace and Tom submit their application to become parents, we are shown snapshots of the conversations between couples chosen as the ‘jury’, to show how they arrived at the decision, an inspired touch which made for an entertaining and revealing sideshow about human nature; I would have loved more like this.  Alas, there was a lack of individuality in the dialogue, generally; practically all couples call each other ‘love’. Almost all the characters have short tempers and say ‘f**k’ a lot.  Sometimes the technology appeared not to have moved on as it might; it’s meant to be several generations into the future but people still talk about their ‘mobile’ phones, a phrase that’s started to sound a little outdated even now.

Interspersed between the main chapters are some curious short ones written from the point of view of someone who turned out to be a computer programmer (I think).  Some of it is a bit ‘fourth wall’, about the writing and publication of the book itself.  He talks about a new programme called 4cast which can programme futures according to DNA and data collected all over the world ~ another of the great ideas present in the novel. Again, though, it all seemed a bit haphazard.

To sum up: an original story containing imaginative, unusual concepts.  I read all the after-book acknowledgements, etc., and must thank the author for the Wikipedia entry about the Tasmanian aboriginals ~ fascinating stuff, it led me to look up more.  Ellis thanks his beta readers for ‘getting through the third draft’ ~ speaking as a writer who still finds dodgy bits as late as the fifth draft, I felt it could have done with another one or two.  The grammar and punctuation (copy editing) is mostly fine, but I think some professional content editing would make this book as good as it could be.

Book description

All men are sterile. Fertility drugs are given only to couples whose genetic matches are approved. Those without a family history to prove their genetic heritage are outcast from society.

Grace is a broken branch. As an orphan, she has no link to The National Family Tree, so she and her husband, Tom, are ecstatic when they’re approved to have a baby. But that was the easy part. Grace’s twin brother inadvertently gets a girl pregnant after a one-night stand, and his girlfriend isn’t happy because it should’ve been her. Both sets of parents soon become the target of a violent terrorist group that advocates genetic purity. To make matters worse, there’s something strange about the unborn children that’s attracting government attention.

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