Unlike Chelsey who had no idea what she was getting into when she began The Strain I knew exactly what I was getting into when I finally willed myself into reading Geoffrey Girard’s Cain’s Blood.
The overall concept was fascinating for me.
Two books released on the same day: one teen fiction and the other just plain old fiction. Both of them focused on a government conspiracy where a pharmaceutical company (the DSTI) clones prolific serial killers to study the rage gene which they lovingly nicknamed the Cain Gene. Jeff Jacobson (the clone of Jeffrey Dahmer) and Castillo (a PTSD suffering, ex military-man with nothing left to lose) travel around the US trying to track down more of these clones and bring an end to their reign of terror.
Sounds interesting right?
But that’s about where my interest ended.
Cain’s Blood failed to hold my attention.
Where it was a definite improvement from Project Cain, this novel meant for older audiences failed to deliver what it offered. In Project Cain the reader is forced to align themselves with Jeff the apathetic-serial-killer clone who has no interest in what is happening in his own story. Since Jeff isn’t willing to find out what’s happening, guess what? You’ll never know either. Enjoy. In Cain’s Blood you finally get to find out what is happening in the outside world, safely away from the whiny narration of Jeff. Instead the perspective jumps around from that of Castillo, The band of young serial killers and Doctor Jacobson (Jeff’s crazy Jack the Riper obsessed Father).
Both Cain novels feel like one manuscript that has been divided into two. If Girard has sat down with both novels and a pair of scissors he may have been able to take all of the decent bits and jam them into one novel. Perhaps the outcome would have been better.
Cain’s Blood suffers because it lacks an identity. It is trying to be too many things at once. It wants to offer the gory descriptions but it also wants to hide them letting the reader’s imagination paint its own disturbing imagery. It wants to be realistic in how it represents and explores science and the process of scientific discovery but it also wants to drop realism and create blood-sniffing-rage- monsters. Cain’s Blood is a final project which reminds me off some of the essays I wrote when I was in high school, you’re not exactly sure when something has been researched or if the author has taken liberty with the facts and blurred them to fit his own means. Is it referencing real experiments to make you uncomfortable or to try and justify it’s own concept?
Then there is the woman problem. First off the novel offers a “scientific reason” (I’m not exactly sure if this is a real theory or a fiction created for the novel) why women cannot become serial killers:
“And no girls here. Safe to assume males are more prone to violence.”
“Safe?” Erdman’s smile was genuine, a scientist discussing his favourite subject. “Genetically and statistically undeniable. It’s not even close. The chromosomal allele for this mutation travels only on the X gene. Think of this allele as the genetic antidote, a code in the DNA that can ‘fix’ the violent abnormality, however, this particular remedy travels only on the X chromosome. Remember enough high school biology? Females are born from XX chromosomes. So they’ve got a likely chance to have a cure for any aggressive mutation in the womb.”
“And men are XY.”
“Very good, you remember. So men have only a fifty-fifty shot of carrying the natural cure to an overly aggressive XP11 strand. We’re hereditarily predisposed to retaining the affliction.”
“Half the world is hereditarily predisposed to violence?”
“We make up ninety-five percent of the prison system. Ninety-nine percent of rapes. And ninety-nine percent of death row.” The smile turned wry “Guess you can say its in our blood” **
– Cain’s Blood, Geoffrey Girard (Locations 382-89 on Kindle)
In this novel there are only three roles that a woman can fall into: The Victim, The Groupie and The Sexy-Mother. Cain’s Blood offers examples for each. There are countless female victims whom the boys torture/rape and kill. An example being the neighbour of one of the boys: Mrs. Nolan. The Groupie is portrayed by the girl Emily, who hooks up with most of the serial-killer clones, even going as far as offering up her little sister and mother to be more victims. Finally there is the Doctor Kristin as the sexy-mother. The sexy-mother is a trope found in a lot of war/post-war films from around the 1945s. To sum it up briefly: a woman who possesses mothering characteristics to take care of the man and help him deal with his trauma but possess a sexual edge, nothing threatening to their man but enough to keep him interested with promise of more to come. Kristin is this and more to Castillo. She helped him overcome his PTSD and they eventually become lovers. The few women of Cain’s Blood are no more than playthings for their male counterparts.
Overall, Cain’s Blood was better than its teen fiction counterpart, but not by much. Castillo’s voice is much more interesting and actually offers the reader insight in the events of the novel, but eventually gets bogged down in the amazing lack of nothing that happens in this book.
Because just like Project Cain: nothing happens.
The Cain novels take an interesting concept and just violently butcher it. Their structure and overall failings may be more terrifying than the violence they try to offer.
“I understand that now, he wanted to explain the terrible thoughts in his own head. He wanted to prove it was all in his own head. He wanted to prove it was all in his blood, that he didn’t have a choice. So he took the most terrible person ever and raised him like a normal boy to see what would happen. To prove that genes, the blood that nature would win.”
(Best summary of both books, in fact save yourself the time and just read that and not the novels themselves)
“What is broken when one can bring himself to kill another? MALES are responsible for the blood and violence of every culture, every country, every age. And serial murder is the masculine zenith of this same gender-based lust for dominance and execution. it is the asocial equivalent of our philosophy, mathematics, music et al. To wit: There is no female Mozart because there is no female Jack the Ripper”
(Full disclosure on this. When I first read this quote I tried really hard to take it as the deranged ravings of the mind of Dr. Jacobson, but the more I thought about it and the more I read into the representation of women in this novel I started to wonder if this was one of the books overarching theses. So clearly since women can’t be serial killers they cannot be geniuses or produce works of art. RAGE.)
Watch the Review and Spoilers of Project Cain
**At the end of Project Cain, in the Epilogue there is an brief one shot of a young boy who is alluded to becoming a serial killer later in life. The passage mentions that later on that the chemicals in his blood that cause rage were normal levels. This goes against everything that the novel has offered to this point. “He was not adopted. He was not a clone. His blood and thoughts were entirely his own. He was just a normal boy. he was every boy. Any boy (Girard, Locations 4140-45). Sexuality is still implied here. This is still a trait for “every boy” not “everyone”. It’s something to think about.