What is truth and how do we know? Who is valuable and why? Narrated by a young woman who is both privileged and exploited, “Breeder” by K. B. Hoyle (author of The Gateway Chronicles) investigates these questions and others. “Breeder” is the first entry in Hoyle’s new Breeder Cycle series.
As an approved breeder in the Controlled Repopulation Program, the girl known as Seventeen carries “genes that will make humanity better, stronger, smarter, and more versatile.” Overpopulation and divisive societal structures have caused three Great Devastations to drive the humanity to the brink of extinction. The Unified World Order (UWO) arose from the chaos, created orderly peace, and now strives to ensure controlled repopulation of Gaia Earth under optimal conditions.
Seventeen knows she has a privileged place in that effort. Since she was 13, her needs have been catered to while residing at Sanctuary, the all-inclusive medical center, gymnasium, and living facility. Internally reciting the litany of UWO history and own her life, she ends with:
“‘My life is perfect.’
“I will remember this. I will repeat it until I remember it is true, and I will cease these foolish doldrums.”
Confused by growing malaise, Seventeen—called only by a number, like all breeders—pretends that all is well, but can’t quite contain her growing doubts and questions. She believes that a male enforcer, named Pax, has infiltrated female-only Sanctuary. He had the audacity to ask her name. It’s a name she can barely remember, a name given to her by other children while pre-schoolers, a name that manages to bubble up into her consciousness: Pria. But the medical staff remind her of the impossibility of a man being in Sanctuary, and she doubts the reliability of her memory.
As she is deemed troublesome and her life threatened, Pax reappears and convinces her to escape Sanctuary with him. Outside for the first time in five years, she finds herself in the wilderness with an unknown man. Everything Pria has been taught and known to be true will be challenged by Pax and others that are beyond UWO control—people the UWO claimed no longer exist.
The opening scenes and engaging writing drew me in. Life within Sanctuary is interesting, although details of Pria’s childhood are frustratingly scant and are told rather than shown. A remembered scene or two from her childhood would have been welcome. Descriptions of Pria and Pax’s time in wilderness are realistic (if simplistic at times to this backpacker and hunter).
The narrative shines while developing the relationship between the two main characters, as well as the relationships they later form in their new community. Forced to trust Pax for her survival, Pria does so with reasonable hesitation and reticence. She plays neither the helpless victim nor the untrusting ingrate. The first time he wakes her for night watch, Pax apologizes because Pria is tired.
“‘I didn’t say that to make you feel bad [Pria responds]. I’m strong and capable—of course I can do my part.’
“‘I know you’re strong and capable, Pria,’ he says. ‘You don’t have to convince me.’”
They are sometimes awkward with each other; at others times their cooperation flows easily.
In their new community, they are welcomed by most, but a few accuse them of being UWO spies. Seething with hate and anger toward the UWO, they threaten Pria and Pax with violence and even death. This distrust lurks in the background of the main story.
An aspect of both Pria and Pax that becomes evident and humorous to their new friends is that neither has any idea how babies are conceived. Upon seeing children, Pria asks Celine,
“‘Where do you get them?’
“Celine snorts. ‘We make them.’
“‘What do you mean? . . . You have implementation facilities here?’
“Celine blinks and raises an eyebrow, ‘You know, for someone whose job it is to reproduce for humanity, you’re shockingly naive.’”
By the end of the book, Pria and Pax aren’t any wiser in the ways of procreation. There are hints of romantic interest between a few characters, but refreshingly, there is no sexually arousing content, intended or otherwise. Romance is a far more minor theme in “Breeder” than in either “The Hunger Games” or “Divergent.”
Within an interesting, complex, engagingly written story, “Breeder” tackles weighty topics—trustworthiness, human worth, reproductive technology, cloning—realistically and honestly. It well deserves its Silver Book Award from Literary Classics International in the young adult science fiction category. I look forward to discussing it with my teenage daughter.
Image copyright The Writer’s Coffee Shop.
Ellen Mandeville earned her B.A. in English literature from UC, Santa Cruz. She lives in the mountains of Idaho with her husband and two children, blogs at www.EllenMandeville.com, and is currently writing her first novel.