Michael Phillip Cash
Createspace, May 2013
Paperback , $8.47; eBook, $0.99
Reviewed by Michael R. Collings
Occasionally, readers, reviewers, and critics complain about books that, they say, read more like screenplays than novels. With Brood X, Michael Phillip Cash’s debut horror novel, such a comment could be seen as a compliment.
The novel begins in a besieged hospital at the height of the Great Cicada Invasion, when trillions of giant insects have emerged and are quite literally crushing the northeastern states with their sheer accumulated weight. An EMT driver enters the security office, bringing with him a camera he has taken from a police cruiser parked outside. At the end of the prologue, he and the two security officers begin watching what the camera has recorded.
Cut to chapter one and Seth Fletcher. Out of work, but not particularly worried about it, he has just purchased a video camera to record his perfect life: beautiful wife, beautiful house in a small town on Long Island, beautiful Mercedes, beautiful everything. His enthusiasm for his life—and for himself—reaches its zenith when Lara tells him he is to be a father. Right away, with all of the exhilaration of a child with a new toy, he decides to document every moment of the pregnancy, up to and including the moment of birth.
Thus the set-up for the novel. As time passes and Lara’s pregnancy develops, so do the initially trivial news references to the cicada emergence due the next August, at the same time as the Fletchers’ baby. With each passing month—as recorded on Seth’s ever-present camera—the pregnancy advances, Seth and Lara playfully explore possible names for the baby (a boy, Seth is convinced), and the warnings about the cicadas becomes more and more pointed, more ominous and threatening.
Brood X follows the Fletchers’ responses to both the pregnancy and the oncoming menace, but more importantly, it uses the vignettes Seth films for his unborn son to examine the couple’s growth and increasing maturity—albeit frequently touched with panic—as the disaster nears, as the first cicadas emerge, and as the Great Cicada Invasion descends with full force upon them and two unwanted house guests, ultimately trapping them inside their house.
Part satiric take on contemporary yuppie expectations confronting the reality of economic downturn; part anatomization of contemporary marriage, including an excoriation of the child-man unwilling to accept adult responsibility; part creature-feature with all of the traditional elements of the great 50s films; part homage to the fairly recent genre of found-footage horror films—Brood X is a quick, fun read. As the cover text suggests, it is “perfect summer reading when you’re sitting outside listening to the cicadas sing.”