****I received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review****
“Intermediates: A Cuckoo for Mankind” is a unique science fiction story about the Intermediates, a type of alien race that coexists with humans in secret. Their survival as a species depends on sending their “breeders” out to sleep with as many men and women (because these aliens can shift between male and female, like gobies or clownfish) as possible. These breeders absorb male semen while in female form, insert their biological genome into it to create Intermediate DNA, then try to impregnate a human female with that altered genetic material. Their entire existence is all about survival, and creating the next generation. Those in their species who wish to truly live, to integrate with human society, are deemed as dangerous, and are often exterminated if they are found not to be viable to the breeding process. It’s a really interesting concept, and I enjoyed the scientific explanations for the Intermediates existence. But the cover really doesn’t convey how cool this book is, and by the end, I was hoping for more from the story.
The book follows three different Intermediates as they are trained by the Syndicate to be breeders before heading out into the world to impregnate willing, but ignorant, partners. Cook shows us how these characters are raised, and a bit about the Syndicate, before showing us what it’s like for these characters to phase back and forth from male to female, and how they view the opposite gender within each phase. Cook also gives us a bit as to why the Syndicate is so powerful, scary, and paranoid about their shadowed existence alongside humans, and the lengths this government entity will go to in order to remain secretive. It was pretty fascinating to watch these characters view the world differently each time they phased, and while I understood the explanation for their phasing and their reliance on humans, I was always yearning for a bit more. Also, and this should come as no surprise, but this book isn’t going to be for everyone. Given how the Intermediates reproduce, a decent amount of the book is spent following a few breeders as they, well, breed. The sex isn’t graphic, but it’s also not subtle. It didn’t bother me, and I wouldn’t be uncomfortable reading this on a train or anything, but I probably wouldn’t feel comfortable with someone under 15 reading it, either.
Anyway, I wanted to see more from the Syndicate throughout the entire book, I wanted to see them operate within the world as a whole, rather than just the few instances they show up to threaten the characters. I wanted to see more of the tension between humans and Intermediates that would justify the lengths the Syndicate was willing to take. I wanted to see a bit more of what happens when a breeder is successful in impregnating their human significant other. I always got just these glimpses of these scenarios, and while I enjoyed what I saw, it just needed a bit more for the story to achieve the tension that it was always on the cusp of establishing. By the time I got to the end of the book, while certain things were resolved, I also felt like parts of the larger story were just getting started. That could be because there will eventually be a sequel (I hope there is!) but as it stands, it was just a bit of a letdown.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book! It’s a creative idea, and I enjoyed Cook’s attention to detail when it came to the science fiction aspects. But it’s a short read, and sometimes it felt that way, where a bit more of showing the reader this world and the Syndicate would have given this book just that little extra it needed. Especially for me to feel like the ending was more of a finale, rather than an intermission.
I did mention that I wish the book had a cooler cover, right? Because I feel like, even after this review, people will look at the cover and shrug the story off, and I honestly don’t think you should! But given that I wanted more from this particular book (which is honestly, not a bad thing, it’d be bad if I wanted less from a book instead), I can only give it 4 stars. Here’s hoping there’s more to come for the Intermediates, and D.W. Cook!