At its core, “The Cretin Gene” is a satirical look at how technology, junk food, and our current culture’s protest and counter protest mentality is making us, not just stupid, but violently stupid at that. It follows an aging cartoonist who is thrust into the limelight when someone looking to disrupt the world order commandeers one of his benign vegetable characters and assassinates someone. The assassination is a front for the true villain to inject society with the actual cretin gene, which has been supplied to the populace via their phones and their food. They essentially go crazy, and can be defeated when you read literature to them, or show them real books. See? Satire. Kind of. Satire is very hard to pull off in the best of circumstances, and maybe this ended up just not being for me, but the satire never really got to be the commentary it was supposed to be, and instead stalled out on caricature characters that got very difficult to read.
This book has two POV’s in it, and they alternate from chapter to chapter between the old cartoonist, Al, and his incredibly brilliant scientist nephew “the Kid”. Unfortunately, the nephew doesn’t actually have a first name. He’s just “the Kid” or Dr. Grossman, so already, he didn’t feel like a real person. This was only made worse by the fact that Dr. Grossman’s chapters were written in a way as to, supposedly, convey how brilliant this character is but it got to the point where you just couldn’t understand the chapters that well. They were really hard to read, and even the most brilliant doctors and PhD students I know never speak like every word belongs in the final round of a spelling bee. But, even with that, I liked Dr. Grossman more than Al, as often Al became this offensive, sexist, ignorant character that I think was supposed to be endearing with his doddering tendencies, but just never really got there for me. Plus, there were so many repetitive words and phrases that I never thought could be over used, like “discombobulation” or how often the Kid refers to his uncle as “my maternal uncle” or his research partner that joins them on this quest to undo the cretin gene as “my esteemed colleague”. There was also how often Al Horowitz referred to himself as a ninja and doing ninja moves, or quick like ginger… It was odd and while it was meant to be humorous and light hearted, it just never tickled that funny bone for me.
I did like that Al and Dr. Grossman both view each other as infantile and in need of help and guidance. It was interesting to see how each character interpreted the exact same scene and how they view their actions, versus how the other characters viewed what was really happening. I thought the author did that really well, and probably should have kept the focus more on that rather than trying to showcase how inane some of the protesters were and what they were protesting. I won’t lie, a lot of that did really rub me the wrong way, which, again, might just mean that this kind of satire wasn’t for me and I was expecting something a bit different based on the synopsis. The villain at the end of the book was a bit lack luster which made the whole quest to fix those infected with the cretin gene seem a bit pointless, and based on all the hijinks that occurred to get to that ending, things did wrap up pretty fast and a bit too cleanly. Overall I don’t think this book was for me, there were some elements that were done well, but then there were so many others that I just had one issue or another with, so I’m giving this 2 stars. But based on the other reviews, I am clearly in the minority with my feelings. But thank you to the author for providing me with a copy for an honest review.
Click the book images to see them on Amazon!