Greg and Sheila Heyman have a monster of a son. No, really. Their son Gabe is a scientific experiment created by an underground organization. They don’t care that at six years old Gabe is more animalistic than human and requires live animals for food. He’s their son and they conveniently ignore all of his monstrous qualities. Their unusual but routine existance is shattered when Gabe matures into a teenage creature that needs to kill his own food. Will Greg and Sheila allow their son to make his kills as science intended, or will they finally put the kibosh on him?
Proud Parents is a difficult book to review because it’s exactly what I wanted to read when I purchased it and the writing is engaging from beginning to end but…I really didn’t like it. I want to tell you that my two main problems with the book are the characters of Greg and Sheila and the explanation of Gabe’s creation, which absolutely are problems. I’ll definitely explain why because those two qualities are the easiest to explain. There was another major problem I had as well but it’s harder for me to pinpoint it. The best way for me to explain it is that the synopsis of this novel was excellent and 100% accurate but the synopsis was considerably stronger than the novel itself.
Greg and Sheila Heyman were the worst characters I’ve read about in a month, and this includes characters from novels and short stories I’ve read for college. My college reading has the defense of being required reading while Proud Parents as “fun” reading does not. I completely understood that after Greg and Sheila couldn’t get pregnant through natural means they would fiercely protect their science experiment offspring like their own blood and that could mean doing unethical actions, but that they never questioned such things as killing people for Gabe to have fresh blood was just wrong. There was only one example where it possibly crossed Sheila’s mind that even to keep Gabe alive there had to be limits and that was in chapter 44 when Sheila internally ran over the problem of her husband immediately turning to “We have to lure people into the house so we can kill them and give them to Gabe.” Kristopher Rufty worded it better than this obviously, but that’s the gist of it. Furthermore, that is literally the only time that either of these people have any hesitation with their actions and in the end it doesn’t matter because Gabe is more important than morality.
The whole business of Gabe’s creation is far-fetched even for speculative fiction. If you read chapters five, six, and 45 you find out the whole story. Gabe was created as a part of Project: Newborn as an extremely underground experiment. There were six families plus the Heymans who participated in the experiment and four mothers died giving birth while only two were successful. Of the two that survived, only one family had a normal offspring. You see, these weren’t normal offspring. The scientists involved in Project: Newborn mixed human, primate, and reptile DNA thinking that the human DNA would take over. Furthermore, they expected that any hybrid offspring that was more creature than human would die in a short amount of time (not specified, although Dr. Henry Connors, one of the scientists involved in Gabe’s creation, was surprised that he had survived up to age six). Gabe was predominantly a lizard with his scaly green skin but he had the climbing skills of a primate and at a distance if people ignored his scales and claws and fangs he did resemble a young child. Slight problem: Gabe went through puberty midway through the novel and it was insanely disturbing to read about his bodily changes because he then functioned like a teenager but was still in a six-year-old’s body. In general I like the idea of a human/primate/reptile hybrid because authors are forced to use their imaginations since few already-published novels use those types of entity combinations, but I didn’t like how it was used in Proud Parents. To give credit to Mr. Rufty, once Gabe was created and going through mutations, that made some sense to me. Just like humans go through changes, I would assume primates and reptiles do as well. Still, I always come return to the idea that if these hybrid offspring weren’t supposed to live up to six years of age while Gabe was not only surviving but becoming immortal (or at least able to regenerate after major injuries), then what was so different about Gabe allowing him to do so?
Here’s the thing: This book had a delightful synopsis that actually summarized the story accurately. I appreciate that because I have read other books about non-human offspring where the synopsis said one thing and the book told a completely different story. I want to give credit where credit is due, so thank you Kristopher Rufty and Samhain Publishing for being honest with your synopsis and novel. I just felt like the synopsis told a stronger story than the actual novel. While the novel had filler descriptions of neighbors that became involved with the Heymans (usually as food), the synopsis cut out that blabber and focused specifically on the problem of Gabe being a monster. I would recommend that if you’re curious about reading Proud Parents, just read the chapters about the Heymans, Gabe, and Dr. Henry Connors.
In the end I refuse to make a “Read this!” or “Never touch this with a million foot pole!” judgment because there are good and bad points about this book. If you like reading books about offspring that aren’t entirely normal, maybe you’ll find the science/”science” compelling enough to give this one a try. I do love the “evil kid” genre of entertainment media and I feel safe in saying that that is why I purchased this book. It’s true that I thought there wasn’t solid justification for how Gabe was created and managed to survive and become stronger but I feel like another reader may not have problems with this. The only thing I’d definitely recommend is reading the reviews of this book on Amazon or Good Reads (if the book exists on there) before purchasing it.