A cautionary tale about the perils of fertility treatments turns into a gore fest for the strong of stomach.
Now that Stephen King has earned acceptance as a literary novelist, what has been published as the debut novel by Novak represents a turnabout—a literary novelist of some renown and commercial success tries his hand at becoming Stephen King. The publisher doesn’t conceal that the novel was written under a pseudonym by Scott Spencer (whose A Ship Made of Paper, 2003, was a National Book Award nominee), but fans who appreciate his typical balance of thematic depth and storytelling will recognize the marketing wisdom of publishing this under a different name. While he remains a fine writer, this descent “into the medical hell of infertility” is most noteworthy for its shock value and for a few truly spectacular deaths (which should challenge the special effects within the movie to which this plainly aspires). Alex and Leslie have everything—luxurious Manhattan domicile, fine jobs, each other—except a baby. Leslie seems more willing to adopt, but Alex is desperate to try anything. If he weren’t, he might have had second thoughts after they traveled to see the mysterious doctor in Slovenia and were greeted by a dog whose “eyes are imbecilic with avidity, and a smell of meat rises from his flanks and loins....But they have come too far, and gone to too much trouble to turn back now.” Bad choice. The doctor’s assistant proceeds to inform them that he has had “great, great success—using tissue from some of the most vigorous and fertile beings on earth.” Another red flag, but they proceed at Alex’s insistence, subsequently indulge in some spectacularly animalistic sex, have twins (or more?) and develop a taste for rodents, household pets, fellow human beings and perhaps even their offspring. The twins are a little weird (and they discover a tribe of similar mutants), but it’s the parents who become monsters.
There may well be a massive popular readership for this gruesome tale (but not Scott Spencer’s readers).