Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Goodhouse Goodhouse
by Peyton Marshall

Supplied for review by Random HouseNew Zealand

Reviewed By: Jacqui Smith

It took me a while to figure out why I was finding this such an unpleasant read. It wasn’t so much the violence, the bad language, or the dark dystopian future. It was that I really didn’t like the viewpoint character. When I thought about it, I realised that given that James is a boy with "bad genes", suffering from PTSD after being nearly killed in a fire, and then used as an unsuspecting test subject for experimental drugs, he can be either a credible character or a likeable character, but not both. Other characters, such as his artistic roommate Owen, are easier on the nerves, although I failed to understand his sudden violent outbursts. As for Bethany, she’s portrayed as an intelligent girl with an interesting backstory; and what she sees in James is beyond my comprehension.

There are disagreeable underlying messages here, as well. The villain of the piece is a scientist, experimenting on the boys, and not in any fashion liable to help them – it’s the whole "science is bad" syndrome again. Furthermore, the basic premise that society might attempt to "cure" young males with a genetic disposition to violence by subjecting them to strict discipline in a "Goodhouse" seems unlikely. The jury is still out on the whole issue of genetics and violent behaviour, and I suspect that by the time any connection is proven, more effective ways to deal with "bad" genes will be available. (Whether or not they should be used is a whole other issue). So, the book is not much use as science fiction either – and let’s not go into Marshall’s lack of thought in his world-building. Essentially, Marshall isn’t writing an SF novel, or a YA adventure, he’s writing a polemic against reform schools.

I can’t really recommend this book… it left me with such a nasty taste. But I have no doubt that it will be highly praised in certain circles, and unsuspecting teenagers will be required to study it.

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