Hybrids by David Thorpe

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Hybrids by David Thorpe

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Category: Teens
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A sharp, strong and tense debut novel joining the current crop of books dealing with human/technology hybrids. It's slightly let down by a rather crude meld of man and machine but it doesn't really matter and is more than made up for by the refusal to wrap everything up in an impossibly neat ending.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: May 2007
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0007247844

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In an increasingly authoritarian Britain, not too far into the future, a new and dreaded virus is sweeping the country. Creep radically alters DNA and once infected, sufferers risk becoming merged with any item of technology that they over-use. It's a terrible disease, causing terrible pain and infection at the transition point and sending the body's immune system into overdrive. People are not only disabled by Creep; they are dying from it too. Nobody knows where Creep came from, but many suspect a drug company may have developed the disease in order to profit from curing it, but it mutated so quickly they were left with a disaster on their hands instead.

Britain's economy has collapsed and other countries are forcing it into isolation, afraid the disease will spread. Unsurprising, then, that those who suffer from Creep - known as hybrids - are feared and reviled by the general population and increasingly regulated by the authorities and the dreaded Gene Police and their Centre for Genetic Rehabilitation. Hybrids follows two Creep victims, Johnny Online and Kestrella, as they try to find out what is really going on.

David Thorpe's Hybrids won a recent new children's author competition run by Saga Magazine and Harper Collins. I can see why it was chosen - there were lots and lots of things I enjoyed about it. It's a real page-turner and my sons and I - even my younger son, the notorious reluctant reader - fairly galloped through it in our rush to find out what happened at the end. The narrative is told turn and turn about by Johnny and Kestrella and while I don't usually like a book to have multiple narrators, I enjoyed it here. It gave a double perspective on the disease and it also made the love affair between the two much more accessible to pre-adolescent readers.

It also tackles a lot of big themes - overdependence on technology; bad behaviour on the part of big business; family loyalty and, above all, mob reaction and public panic. My older son said, perceptive as ever, that he had thought Hybrids was going to be "just another" book all about how we should be nice to someone that's different, but it wasn't really about that at all - it much more about how "the people in charge" fail to control mob rule and actually "pretty much suck up to it really". And do you know, I think he was right. We also liked the way the book ended on more questions, not neat solutions.

Our one real criticism of Hybrids is that Creep is just too, well, crude. The subtlety of the themes and ideas in the book simply isn't matched in a virus that causes specific people to merge with specific items of technology that they over-use. We just didn't believe that a mobile phone would suddenly jump up and meld to Kestrella's hand. Or that a computer monitor would take the place of Johnny's face. Or that arms could become automatic machine guns. A more subtle virus causing a more subtle hybridisation would have improved the book considerably for us. Other than that, we really enjoyed Hybrids and hope it does well.

Our thanks to Harper Collins for sending the book.

Kevin Brooks' Being is a slightly more sophisticated take on the hybrid theme and Joe Craig's books about Jimmy Coates give the same premise an X-Men twist for younger readers. You might also appreciate Hater by David Moody and The Evil Occupants of Easingdale Castle by Ray Filby.

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Buy Hybrids by David Thorpe at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Hybrids by David Thorpe at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Hybrids by David Thorpe at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Hybrids by David Thorpe at Amazon.com.


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Magda said:

I might be to anal, but I really, really think that the premis is so mind-bogglingly idiotic, and it could have been done - it has been done, countless times, in cyber-punk - so much better, that it would require the kind of suspension of disbelief that I would be not prepared to make. But then, I am not exactly the target market, am I?

Jill replied:

Ah yes. Well, I don't read cyber punk - but I imagine quite a few older teens do? But then, this is probably intended for younger teens not ready for that market yet. It's well-written, and the hybrid premise is quite popular in children's books at the moment. I haven't really seen any that take a mob-rule angle as opposed to the effect on an individual angle, so that does set it apart and is also timely, given that every mosque is currently suspected of doubling as a terrorist academy, non? Having said that, and as I said, the virus itself in the book is treated very crudely, and it does let it down somewhat. Still, first book and all that, what what. The dialogue's great and that's what usually lets a first book down.

Magda said:

If so, then it will be a good introduction to 'proper' s-f.