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Monday, August 26, 2013

Project Cain by Geoffrey Girard

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?

Released: September 3rd 2013      Pages: 368
Publisher: Simon & Schuster       Source: ARC received through Goodreads First Reads giveaway

First Look: ***** Before I get started, I'd like to point out that I didn't know anything at all about the author drama surrounding this book until after I read it.  For the record, I would've given it the same rating either way.  (I'll discuss the drama a little later.)  Anyway, I love this book's cover.  It bugs me a little that his right hand isn't reflected correctly in the water, but overall I like it.  The image is significant to the themes of the novel.  From the first moment this book showed up in the mail, that guy on the cover looked familiar.  I feel like if he looked up he might be like this:
I really want to see the cover model's face, because I feel like he'd look exactly like Jonathan Crane.  Oh my goodness the theories that spring from this.  THE THEORIES.  A young Jonathan Crane* on the cover of a novel about serial killers. 

 Setting: *****  
The setting didn't play a big role in the novel, so I don't have much to say about it.  I would've liked to have a clearer idea of where the characters were at any given moment.  They drove around quite a bit to a few different states, but the author never really said where they were going.  Also, it seemed like they drove from one place to another faster than would be possible in real life.

Characters: ***** This aspect was, in fact, the part of the novel I enjoyed most.  While I wish I could've gotten to know Jeffrey better (through some actual showing instead of telling; more on this later), I could see that he was complex.  He acted realistically, always fearing what he might do, being the clone of a notorious serial killer.  I grew to like him.  I have a feeling that if this book had been written better, he would have been a fantastic and well-developed character.  He was dynamic, and even relatable. 

Castillo was the weaker character, in my opinion.  He seemed unpredictable, in that one minute he'd act like he cared about Jeffrey, and the next he'd act like Jeffrey was just some obnoxious kid trailing him around. 

What I really wanted to see was some more interaction between Jeffrey and the other Dahmer clones.  I have a feeling that this would have had some excellent conflict.

 Plot: ***** I have mixed feelings about the plot.  I didn't really dislike it, but I have nothing specific to complement, either.  My issues are specific, but I can't pinpoint a good reason why I didn't outright dislike it. 

My main issue is with the focus of the plot.  It seemed like it would shift suddenly between two objectives.  First, they wanted to catch the murderous kids on the loose.  Then, out of nowhere, there was a secret weapon that they had to find.  The "secret weapon", though, was introduced briefly, in a way that I didn't place too much importance on it, but it became vital in the past few chapters.  If you're going to make something a big deal in the climax, you can't just pull it out of close to nothing towards the end of the book.  It needs to be woven into the entire book along with everything else.

 Uniqueness: ****
Although there are many other books dealing with clones, this one puts a unique spin on it.  I love the premise of this book--take the DNA of famous serial killers, make clones, and see what happens.  It's not something I would approve of in real life, but it's a great idea for a novel.  (Actually, though, what were those scientists thinking?  Who in their right mind would think this is a smart idea?)

Writing: ***** 
And now we come to what I liked least, by far, about this novel.  It was 368 pages of solid telling.  And no, I'm not exaggerating at all.  There was no showing whatsoever in this novel.  (See this post for an explanation of showing vs. telling.  In short: showing=good, telling=bad.)

So, apparently, the author of Project Cain is under the impression that using no showing and all telling throughout an entire novel is an innovative way of writing a novel targeted towards more reluctant readers.  He considers this use of constant and incessant telling an example of "devices, voice and structure I simply didn’t see being used in most other current YA novels".  (This quote came from here.)

Um.  There is one very good reason why most current YA novels don't read like a textbook.  It's that people don't like to read telling.  People want showing.  Showing is engaging and enjoyable.  Telling, not so much.  And it didn't work for me in Project Cain any more than it has in any other novel I've read.

The use of the word "like" also bothered me.  The narration (first person, from Jeffrey's point of view) would, like, say "like" in casual narration.  And that, like, grated on my, like, nerves.  Just because, like, many teenagers say it, like, all the time doesn't mean you have to use it in your narration.  There's, like, a fine line between making narration sound realistic and being too realistic.

 Likes: Nothing not already mentioned above.

Not-so-great: 1. Yet another wild author-responding-poorly-to-uncomplimentary-review appears!  I'm not going to take the time to rant about my full views on this subject, because 1. you probably don't want to hear it and 2. it makes me so mad, it might not fit into this review anyway.  If you want to know more about what happened, go here.  I will say, though, that I don't like the idea of authors directly interacting with book bloggers, whether the review is positive or not.  There needs to be a healthy amount of space between bloggers and authors, otherwise the reviews can't be honest, because we'll all be afraid of authors with lawyers watching over our shoulders all the time.  An author once commented on my review of his book, and even though it was a four star review, it still made me a little uncomfortable.

2. Did anyone else feel a bit of eye strain and the beginning of a headache after watching this book's trailer?  So many yellow eyeballs do not thank me for watching that.

3. Am I the only one becomes suspicious when an author's name is similar to the main character's name?  I understand that Geoffrey Girard was using the name of an actual person, Jeffrey Dahmer, to name his main character.  Still, though, whenever I see this kind of similarity, I can't help but think that the main character is just a thinly disguised version of the author.  This might or might not be true, but it bothers me.  It would be like me, whose name is Anne, writing about an Ann.  It would be weird. 

 Overall:  This is how the author described this novel:  "If there were a party of good YA books about serial killers, Project Cain would indeed be the creepy one standing outside the window. But it’s not to join them.  It’s to douse their house in gasoline, and just maybe strike a match…" (quote source)  Good grief.  I don't even know how to respond to that.  In my opinion, Project Cain was an entire novel narrated entirely by telling, which was not enjoyable.  Some aspects I liked, like the main character, Jeffrey, and all his complexities.  Otherwise, though, I didn't enjoy this much.  The plot was unfocused, and, again, THE TELLING. 
Similar Books:  It reminds me of The House of the Scorpion in that the main character is a clone, and is a little like Unwind in the same regard (though Unwind doesn't technically involve cloning).  It involves top-secret, sketchy science experiments like Virals or Mila 2.0.
*This is totally random, but does anyone else know the Imagine Dragons song 'Bleeding Out'?  There's that line "With the darkness fed/I will be your scarecrow".  That line never made sense to me, but now whenever I hear it, I think of Jonathan Crane/the Scarecrow.  And suddenly it makes so much sense.


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