Broken Branches by Ben Ellis (Book Review)

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.


See Also:

In A Right State – Ben Ellis (Book Review)

In A Right State by Ben Ellis (Book Review)

In A Right State is set in a futuristic Britain where information is a profitable resource, collected and used by large corporations as a commodity, to increase sales precision, earn profits and run the country’s economy.

Set in 2066 the story follows retired genetic researcher Duncan Hartley who is in violation of patent laws having been growing illegal tomatoes in his back garden. Fearing the repercussions of his actions, we first meet Duncan as he illegitimately attends the auction of his deceased wife’s body parts; With rising costs associated with disposal it is now deemed mandatory for the dead to earn a profit from their passing, by selling off their viable organs, allowing them to pay off debt and provide an inheritance for their loved ones. Unfortunately, he accidentally gives himself away and is soon hunted by the authorities.

Meanwhile, 30 year old Amy Jay, data analyst for the Pharmara Corporation loses her job due to her friendship with Nicole Hartley, Duncan’s recently deceased wife. Pharmara believe Amy to be an accessory to Duncan’s illegal activities and the whole sorry situation results in Amy and Duncan being on the run from Pharmara boss, Estelle Hawthorne.

Coupled with Poppy Gold, daughter to the man seeking to revolutionise the local power industry, Amy and Duncan become embroiled in an elaborate plot to collect and sell personal data to all and sundry, with no regards for privacy.

Can the Colonel’s plan be foiled, and more importantly will Duncan manage to get his precious seeds out of the country undetected?


Favourite Quotes:

“The auction of your wife’s body parts was not the ideal place to grieve.” – Duncan Hartley’s inner thoughts. p7


“It’s important to observe the observed without them knowing they are being observed.” – Estelle Hawthorne. p24


“We track, we measure, we record, we trend and we forecast.” – Charles Sand, CEO of Rooftech Industries. p149



In A Right State is a very well written and impressive debut novel from UK writer Ben Ellis, who furnished me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

His story is set in a realistic and very possible sounding dystopian future in which businesses run the economy, based solely on statistical data obtained from an almost infinite number of electronic sources, where waste is reduced almost to the point of non-existence. As a result profit is optimised and people are constantly being bombarded with invasive information as corporations attempt to maximise their sales.

Right from the start this book has the reader hooked as we jump straight in to the unexpectedly weird auction scene and despite the important theme of an apparent lack of respect for privacy, the story finds plenty of opportunities to have fun and be light-hearted enough not to take itself too seriously.

With a 4 out of 5 star rating I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys futuristic dystopian style stories and I look forward to reading more from Ben Ellis in the future.


Additional note; Ben has just recently released his second novel, Broken Branches, and you can check out the review here.