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Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism

It’s 1911. Underneath the idyllic surface of small town Eliada, eugenics is being studied and the town may have reasons for its seemingly perfect inhabitants. I first read about the American eugenics program in Jodi Picoult’s Second Glance and it was that subject that made me want to read Eutopia. It’s a part of American history that has been swept under the carpet, for understandable reasons. However, eugenics is used as a vehicle for the plot here and I didn’t learn much more than I already knew.

If eugenics isn’t scary enough for you, there’s something not right in the quarantine shed. Dr Waggoner is a black doctor who happens to be available when a young woman has been butchered during what looks like outhouse abortion. Now in a town practising eugenics, you can tell that a black doctor is going to be in for a tough time and an attempted lynching is just the start of it. It turns out that women are being raped and the person being kept in quarantine is suspected of being involved.

This novel is seriously creepy. Do not read it on your own, at night, with the bedroom window open. I ended up jumpy and paranoid and then had to sleep with the window closed even though it was muggy and uncomfortable. Now, when it comes to films, I’m a big girlie wuss but not so much with horror novels. I find the scariest things are often the stuff that can really happen and horror writers can kill the suspense with excessive description. But not here.

There are a lot of big ideas in Eutopia and I think maybe there are too many to do them all justice. Not only are there the real life horrors of practising eugenics on a community, biological warfare and an element of the supernatural but also questions of religion. It did seem a bit disjointed at times and the end seemed a little anti-climatic after all the good stuff that came before but the creep factor gives it an extra star.

Thank you to ChiZine Publications for providing me with a copy for review. Eutopia is available to purchase in paperback and ebook formats now.

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  1. gabrielreads

    I did a minor in Anthropology in college and was appalled by the eugenics movement. It's thought that Josef Mengele actually got some of his ideas for medical experiments on Jews during the Holocaust from some of the things that were done in the US. Absolutely horrific stories.

    Great review. I think there are some books that try to do too much and it sounds like this was one of them. It still seems like it would be a great read though.

  2. Kate

    Ok, this book looks excellent. I'll have to see if my library has it. Thanks for the review!

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