Monday, August 17, 2015

Being by Kevin Brooks

636199This review was written by: C
Received: Library
Publication Date of Book: February 2007
Pages: 336
Stars: 3/5

Summary of the story:

Robert Smith once believed that he was a normal sixteen-year-old boy . . . and human. However, one single event changes his life forever. Robert arrives at the hospital to undergo a routine endoscopy to confirm suspicions of possible stomach ulcers. Of course, the teen is nervous, anxious, and uncertain about what is about to happen. After being injected with an anesthetic, the doctors place the telescopic tube down Robert's throat and come across a shocking discovery.... what lies within Robert is definitely not normal. Robert begins to hear snippets of conversation and the fact that what is inside of him is completely unnatural. He possesses silvery filaments and strange colored liquids that none of the medical staff have ever seen before. Robert can't move or speak as he is poked, prodded, and sliced into. He must escape at all costs and retrieve his files and the video that shows what was found within him. Somehow Robert forces himself to wake up right after his stomach is ripped open and explored by the medical staff. Robert only has one prominent thought: He must escape.

After running from the hospital with a stolen pistol, clothing, his medical files, his endoscopy video, and a hostage (who happens to be the anesthesiologist), Robert heads for the train station. He has no idea where he's going from there, what he is, or how he will escape those who will soon be coming after him. He abandons the hostage, hops on a train, and formulates a plan. He will have to reach Eddi, a girl he once met long ago while he was staying at one of many homes for orphans. Eddi is a dangerous thief that makes a living creating fake IDs. Robert desperately needs a new identity and Eddi is his only hope. Robert can't go home, the people who want him back have framed him for murder, and thus his old life is completely destroyed.

Eddi has seen the papers and knows that Robert is wanted for murder and helps him nonetheless. With a new look, credit cards, and identity, Robert wants to prove his innocence to her. They soon arrive back at the hospital searching for the hostage/anesthesiologist that helped Robert get away, however, they soon discover that he never made it back and was killed in a car accident. Robert can't believe this and knows that his former hostage was murdered by those who want him back. Then one of the guards recognizes Robert, placing him on the run yet again. After the guard is killed and Eddi and Robert escape, they must somehow determine what to do to outrun those who will stop at nothing to discover what Robert is and retrieve him as soon as possible. Eddi and Robert must trust one another if they both want to survive.

My thoughts:

When I heard about this book, I absolutely knew that I had to read it. The story seemed extremely interesting and the mystery of what Robert was intrigued me. The novel automatically delved  into Robert's situation, beginning immediately with his arrival at the hospital and his endoscopy. Brooks used some powerful descriptions to convey all that Robert was feeling as he lied unconscious on the medical table. I felt like I really was Robert and definitely felt a little queasy while reading what was going on. I'm not sure if anyone else who read this book felt this way or if I just have a very overactive imagination, but I definitely connected with Robert and experienced his fear, pain, and frustration. 

This connection with the character was strong throughout the first half of the novel. I rooted for Robert and hoped that he would escape those pursuing him. I was also super excited to find out what Robert was. With what was found inside him, he could have been any number of things: an alien, cyborg, android, some government experiment, etc. The interesting part was that Robert didn't even know himself. He is an orphan, unaware of who his biological parents are, or how to find/contact them. He also can't distinctly remember any of his early childhood memories, they all mix together and become a jumbled blur, therefore what he is could be the result of something that was done to him. All of these events felt like they were building up to some grand finale, but the final half involved Eddi and Robert living a life that almost felt like a fantasy that couldn't last. As a result, I felt a disconnect and a bit let down by the last half of the story.

--- Spoiler Alert! ---
With all the build-up and uncertainty about what Robert could be, I was extremely disappointed that you NEVER get to find out what Robert is! You get brief descriptions of what is inside him, find out that he heals quickly, and that he never ever has been seriously sick in his life. These aren't definitive clues that can lead to a concrete conclusion of what Robert is. Those who are after him also definitely want to find out what Robert is and why he exists. Robert also fears what he might be, but by the end of the book he doesn't seem to care at all. He's been through hell but then suddenly is content with not knowing what he is or why he exists. 

--- Major Spoiler Alert! ---
With this kind of story, there is usually a formula. The character finds out that he's different and the government or some shady organization discovers that this person is unique, and they want to capture them. Eventually, at some point in the book, the character is captured by these individuals, experimented on, they find out what the character is, the character escapes, etc. There may even be a love interest involved and they may ride happily off into the sunset at the end or face a terrible tragedy that they have to overcome, or perhaps the final tragedy may lead into a second book. Brooks threw out all of what would be expected. The entire book is Robert running and falling in love with Eddi. They finally reach a country where they live happily for a very short time and then the organization looking of Robert finds them. Their happy little world shatters completely. Eddi is killed, Robert fights those who have come after him, and leaves one of the bad guys close to death. This particular bad guy is the one that really wants to know what Robert is, and Robert punishes him by stating that they will never find Robert again and they must live never knowing. 

While reading this book I felt it was five star material, but the story began to disappoint me, especially at the end. Eddi and Robert were such a cute couple and even though you knew they probably wouldn't have a happy ending, I didn't expect Eddi to be killed off (especially since the author hinted that she was pregnant with Robert's child).  Due to the last half of the book I finally concluded to give the book a total of three stars. I do have to give the author props though, for detouring from the set norm. He didn't follow the expected formula for this kind of story, but his deviation choices didn't exactly make me happy. I was super excited to find out what Robert was. Heck, the summary on the inside jacket seemed to hint at the fact that the story was Robert's journey to discovering who and what he was.

I also would like to quickly discuss the fact that Brooks explored what it meant to be human. At the end Robert doesn't care what he is, but he had a deep internal conflict at the beginning of his story. He was conflicted with the fact that he may or may not be human. He knew that he felt emotion, experienced everything that a normal human did, including pain, suffering, and sadness. The only thing that he couldn't do was shed a single tear. He loved Eddi more than anything and her death was terrible. He felt loss and then he felt a deep resolve to end it all. He would not allow those after him to destroy his life any longer. Overall, I would read this book if you enjoy a good twisting tale and don't fear the fact that it deviates from the norm.

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