Having enjoyed Ben Ellis’ previous novel In A Right State, I was excited to read his second dystopian science fiction novel, Broken Branches, which I received directly from the author in exchange for an honest review.
I was initially intrigued by Ben’s idea of male sterilisation in a society dedicated to genomic compatibility, where those with strong DNA signatures, AKA Thoroughbreds are recommended to breed together, optimising and enhancing the human population with good strong genes. Meanwhile, those who can’t prove their genetic history, AKA Broken Branches, are prohibited from procreating to avoid tainting the gene pool.
Ben’s earlier novel struck a chord with me, as I could see all too clearly that a future in which personal data is a highly sought after commodity, could potentially resonate with real life current events in a digital age. His next book, gets those cogs in your brain working overtime once again, as you realise that events such as selective human breeding or the genetic altering of children whilst still in their mother’s womb, may not be such an unlikely scenario for future generations. Especially considering the rapid advancement of science and technology, coupled with a vastly overpopulated planet and limited resources.
Broken Branches tells the story of orphaned twin siblings, Grace and Charlie. Grace has married a thoroughbred, Tom and the couple have recently been given permission to have a child, despite Grace’s status as a broken branch. Using drugs designed to reverse her husband’s sterility, Grace becomes pregnant.
Meanwhile, her brother’s girlfriend, Maiya harbours secret plans of her own to secure a family with Charlie. But when he knocks up another woman, a thoroughbred, after a one-night stand, their actions attract the unwanted attention of a terrorist group known as The Gardeners, placing all of their lives in danger.
I especially liked the concept of ‘deleting’ bad genes such as those connected to debilitating diseases like Multiple Sclerosis, as this has a genuine ability to improve the lives of people who may otherwise suffer horribly. I only wish this concept existed in real life.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite seem to remain focused on Broken Branches for any considerable amount of time. The confusing, and rather weird, and to my mind rather pointless narration after every chapter, in which a futuristic entity coupled with a supercomputer attempts to converse with the reader, persistently broke my concentration.
As a result I can only rate Broken Branches at 3 out of 5 stars. The story was interesting and piqued my curiosity, getting me thinking about how scientific advancements and government interference, can shape our future. But overall I didn’t think this novel was as strong as its predecessor, as it lacks some of the humour prevalent in his earlier work, and has a rather abrupt ending.
As with In A Right State, the book includes a ‘DVD Extras’ section at the end which provides some additional insight to the novel and answers some of the reader’s more prominent questions.