Book Review: Sarah Pinborough’s Breeding Ground

book review September 14, 2011

I read Breeding Ground for a class on horror monsters. The students in the class shared book reviews, and although opinions about the book varied, we all agreed that Pinborough really gets the imagery and tension going in this one. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, I think partly because I really love characters who are fully realized and develop throughout the book. The characters of Breeding Ground feel authentic and they never sit back and accept what’s happening to their world.

Pinborough has created a world in which technology has gone awry in a horrible way. Genetic modification of plants and animals has resulted in a creature that incubates inside humans and uses us as a food source. We see the beginning of the plague through the eyes of Matthew Edge, and we watch his girlfriend, Chloe, succumb to the creatures slowly and horribly, culminating in the premature stillbirth of their child, partially consumed in utero (p. 47-49). The story rapidly gains pace after Matt leaves Chloe and finds a band of unaffected people seeking safety. We follow the group across Britain to a “safe-house” at a government facility where they try to make sense of what’s happened and how to handle the disaster. There is only sporadic contact with the world outside their complex, and Pinborough leaves us with Matt and Rebecca leaving the complex to find other people.

Pinborough has a strong command of imagery and uses to great effect in Breeding Ground. The scene in which Matt is immobilized by Chloe and she gives birth to their child is wonderfully horrifying. “Finally, she must have slid down the fridge freezer to sit on the floor, and then after she broke long and noisy wind, she settled down to snorting occasionally as she panted. After about half an hour, I heard something squelch, something wet perhaps, on the quarry tiles we had chosen together not that very long ago” (p. 45). This scene is vivid in my mind’s eyes and ears. I can feel the frustration that Matt experienced, stuck to the wall, only able to listen to these noises, fear and concern warring within him for the woman being taken from him before his eyes. Although Matt can’t see what’s happening with Chloe, Pinborough’s use of imagery allows me to see it, and it adds to the tension I feel on Matt’s behalf.

Tension is another element that is not lacking in this book. We see early on that Katie can control the spiders (p. 103-104). I wondered until her death if this was because the spiders saw her as a potential incubator or if it was because she was already infected. Dave’s bite at the shopping center (p. 128) added to the overall tension, as did Nigel’s strange demeanor.

Pinborough balanced the supernatural elements in the book with a strong human element. Matt loved Chloe and watched her demise. Jane’s inclusion in the group one-upped the ante (must. save. child.). Even the details of the food, kept the reader grounded and reminded me that I was reading about humans. Make the reader identify with the characters on a visceral level, and they will fear the horrific that much more. The sizzling fajitas at the compound (p. 215) after the crazed run for safety reminded me of the basic human comforts and how much was really at stake.

Again, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the book. Ok, maybe “enjoyed” isn’t quite the right word. I was horrified and repulsed, but I couldn’t put it down. Pinborough nailed the balance of horror and humanity enough to make me care. That’s magic.

Work cited:
Pinborough, Sarah. Breeding Ground. New York: Dorchester Publishing Co. Inc. 2006.


Tattooed writer with an attitude seeks like minded people who appreciate snark and ink. Or snarky ink.

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