Breeding Ground, by Sarah Pinborough, didn't work for me. Most of the issues I had with this novel were with believability. Even in a piece of fiction, I feel the reasons for certain occurrences should be believable enough to make the reader think the events could actually happen. This suspension of disbelief is harder to attain when you are working with a story or novel that actually takes place in our world--Pinborough didn't reach that level, in my opinion.
At the beginning of the novel, we discover that the women are putting on weight rapidly for some inexplicable reason. Not one woman here and there, but nearly all of them. Matt, our main character, takes his girlfriend to the doctor because she's pregnant and he's worried about her health. The doctor shoos them out of his office saying everything is fine. When Matt runs into the doctor a short time later, he finally discovers everything is not fine. "We're all just going to have to wait and see. That's all we can do. Wait and see" (52). This is what the doctor tells Matt, and this is the first instance where my suspension of disbelief is shattered. True, some things can't be explained, and not every sickness can be treated, but only waiting to see what happens is a bit of a stretch for me. This is happening world-wide. Doctors know, the government must know. No thoughts of a quarantine or taking certain precautions? Nope, the doctors and the government just plan to wait and see what happens, and not by actually observing the afflicted women in a secure environment, but by allowing them to go on with their lives so they eventually give birth to the monstrous widows within their own homes. I can't easily accept this. No thought of any possible damage control had me baffled.
I patiently waited for an explanation as to how these widows came about--I understand not revealing it right away, and I was hoping the novel would redeem itself with a good solid explanation that made sense. Unfortunately, all I found was more disappointment. "Genetically modified food. That's where the smart money is. They, or I suppose I should say we, let it get out of control" (219). The words of a geneticist. He goes into a lengthy explanation, of course, but it's still not enough to make me believe that this is the true cause. If it was genetically modified food, how is it that this happened to most of the women around the world at the same time? This reason would have made more sense to me if the creatures spawned in a more scattered pattern. Everyone consumes different foods, different proportions of those foods, and because of that, I would think people would birth these monsters at innumerable varying rates. And why did it effect only women at first? The mates of the widows do not start spawning from the men until the end of the novel. I was hoping the genetically modified food was a guess and that we would find out the real reason further in, but that never happened.
Near the end, they discover that a certain kind of blood is like acid to the widows, killing them effectively. It just so happens that this blood is from a deaf woman and a deaf dog. "It seemed that the simple genetic defect that had probably been a curse to them throughout their lives up to this point was now what made them the envy of every other survivor on the planet" (318). At this point, my faith in Pinborough's ability to back up anything with a solid explanation was shaken, so the whole blood-of-the-disabled-is-poison caused a sigh. What exactly is so different with this deaf woman and dog that it effects the widows? The closest connection is that the widows are telepathic, but that's a fraying thread. Not to mention, deafness is caused by an array of things, not only genetics.
Perhaps Breeding Ground isn't my type of monster novel. I found it impossible to suspend my disbelief, unlike with I Am Legend. This caused the monsters to be less effective for me, in the end. I'm sure others feel differently, but I couldn't bring myself to accept this post-apocalyptic world Pinborough created.
Pinborough, Sarah. Breeding Ground. New York: Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc., 2006.