Monday, November 25, 2013

Project Cain by Geoffrey Girard (Review)

Young Adult, Thriller, Horror, Science Fiction
Publication.Date  September 3rd 2013
Published By:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
WebsiteGeoffrey Girard 

Project Cain on Goodreads
My review copy:Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Where to get:

Fifteen-year-old Jeff Jacobson had never heard of Jeffrey Dahmer, the infamous serial killer who brutally murdered seventeen people more than twenty years ago. But Jeff’s life changes forever when the man he’d thought was his father hands him a government file telling him he was constructed in a laboratory only seven years ago, part of a top-secret government cloning experiment called ‘Project CAIN’.

There, he was created entirely from Jeffrey Dahmer’s DNA. There are others like Jeff—those genetically engineered directly from the most notorious murderers of all time: The Son of Sam, The Boston Strangler, Ted Bundy . . . even other Jeffrey Dahmer clones. Some raised, like Jeff, in caring family environments; others within homes that mimicked the horrific early lives of the men they were created from.

When the most dangerous boys are set free by the geneticist who created them, the summer of killing begins. Worse, these same teens now hold a secret weapon even more dangerous than the terrible evil they carry within. Only Jeff can help track the clones down before it’s too late. But will he catch the ‘monsters’ before becoming one himself?

Albert Fish. Jeffrey Dahmer. Henry Lee Lucas. Dennis Rader. Ted Bundy. David Berkowitz.
How many of these names do you recognize?
Except for one, which I'd learned only the day before, I'd never heard of any of them.
They happen to be six of the most famous serial killers ever.
That's why they were chosen. Why they were born again. Manufactured.
According to my father's journals, it was time to free all of them.
To tell these clones who they truly were and release them out into the world.
Like he was letting loose a wild animal.
Or a disease.
Like he'd free me.
I knew enough basic science to understand test groups controlled experiments. DSTI had created us all to harness the XP11 violence gene. Guess they wanted to determine precisely how much of the violence was directly related to the gene and how much was connected to environment.

     If you've known me for a while, you're probably well aware of two things. First, I am a very forgiving and easy to please reader who rarely dislikes a book enough to give it anything less than 3 stars. Second, I love creepy stories, dark and disturbing premises and unsettling plots. That being said, I have never read a book before with such fantastically blood-chilling premise and such poor execution. Project Cain had so much potential that was never realized, it would've surely broken my heart, if I wasn't so damn mad at this book! 

     So what's the deal here? 
     First of all, there is no dialogue in this book. Non. The narration is scattered, which makes the plot extremely hard to follow. It's also nonsensical and boring, filled with tons of scientific info that, while some of it genuinely interesting, was for the most part unnecessary and irrelevant. And while this alone was quite unpleasant, it was something I could still overlook and get past. What I really couldn't stand, though, was the narrator himself. We're following the *adventures* of Jeff Jacobson, a teenage kid who one day discovers that he's a clone of a serial killer from 1980's, Jeffrey Dahmer. What a unique and intriguing concept! I just couldn't wait to get started on this one, but boy, was I disappointed! For a book that follows a clone of one of the most dangerous serial killers in the history of the US, there is remarkably little to no exploration of the hero's psyche. Nothing about how he feels about his discovery. Nothing about any moral struggles, repressed urges to kill, dark thoughts (or their lack thereof). Non of these things are addressed. The narration is dry and emotionless. Like a mid term paper on *the day I found out that I am an evil version of Dolly the sheep.* 

     The character development is minimal. All we really learn about Jeff is his origin, there's little to no back story, and even the parts dedicated to describing his relationship with his father are very short and kept to a minimum. I expected a complex, conflicted hero, instead I got someone who was detached, passive and completely indifferent. 

     The simple, conversational tone assumed by the narrator resembles a diary. Jeff asks the reader questions and overuses the word "seriously". The book is filled with short, simple sentences and repetitive statements. On top of that, there are numerous instances when we have the narrator describing something in the present time, and also making a premonition about how he'll feel about it, or what more he'll learn in relation to it, in the future. All that was extremely off-putting and annoying. 

     The military science, genetics of violent behavior and - most importantly - cloning was all obviously extensively researched by the author. It's also explained very comprehensively and makes for an interesting read. I do, however, feel like the author felt the need to include all of his findings in the story, making it very heavy on scientific detail and resulting in a great intellectual stimulation for the reader, but no real emotional engagement in the story. All the information is seemingly accurate (can't be sure, though, don't know all the facts and statistics), it feels legit, but it doesn't make the story any better. Sure, it was interesting to learn more about all these things, but I don't need to read YA fiction for that, I can easily look it up on Wikipedia. Geoffrey Girard forgot to put the fiction in his science fiction novel. 

      To this day, I have no idea what was the point of this story. What did the author try to achieve by telling this odd tale? If it was about deciding whether violence is something inherited through genes or gained from environment, then I'm afraid this story failed miserably. 

     To sum it all up, to call Project Cain a bad book would not be fair to all the bad books out there. Bad books we read, we dislike and we put down with a dismissive shrug. And then we move on with our lives and pretty much forget about them. Project Cain, on the other hand, is a whole new level of bad. It's that kind of bad that makes your blood boil. It's frustrating to the point you find yourself looking around for someone to punch, or something to break, or - ideally - break something on someone else's face. Multiple times. It's not a book you can shrug off and forget about, it's a book that, every time you'll think about it, you'll just get angry all over again. Well, at least that's how I feel. And I honestly doubt there are readers out there who are even more forgiving and understanding than I am.

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