Every author has that book, whether it’s their first or their tenth or their fifth. There will be a book that just doesn’t live up to the standard to which they’ve been hyped. For John Otte, that book is The Hive. I should note that I have thoroughly enjoyed every one of John’s previous novels. His debut novel, and the resultant series Failstate remains a go-to recommendation for YA superhero novels. His first “adult” novel Numb was good, but a little more complex. Enjoyable book, a few kinks, but it all worked. The Hive falls flat on its face.
I really wanted to like this book, but let’s begin with the premise and see where it breaks down. First, there’s a pregnant unwed teenage cyborg who has to find out how she got pregnant. I guess after Marcher Lord/Enclave’s success with Kerry Neitz’s Amish space vampires, the MLP/Enclave authors are all seeking to create success with weird mashups. While the back cover clearly states that Zain is a cyborg, this isn’t as obvious in the book. Further, you’re never really told how a cyborg can get pregnant…and least not in any believable way. Fantasy/spec-fic/sci-fi is all about suspension of disbelief, but you have to give me reasons, and I didn’t feel like there were any good ones that drove the story.
Zain goes off in search to find the virtual baby daddy, which appears to be Scorn Nelson, who has the clichéd Troubled Past. Meanwhile, Zain’s people (the titular Hive) want her to terminate the pregnancy while the two intergalactic governments (the Ministrix and the Praesidium) each want the baby for their own nebulous, certainly nefarious purposes.
The Hive was clearly written with the issue of abortion in mind and, while I’m certainly pro-life and am all for spreading awareness, the pro-life message overshadows the story and frankly just comes across as cheesy. Perhaps with a better execution of the storyline, this effect would have been lessened, but with a complicated plot and a somewhat haphazard universe, The Hive just doesn’t work.
I don’t know if the issue is the editing, the fact Otte is writing for adults rather than YA, or what the change might be. The Hive does not live up to his previous offerings. That said, every author—even those I consider friends—eventually puts out a novel that makes me go “yeah, no…you missed it on that one.” So Otte is in good company here. While I didn’t enjoy this one, I’ll gladly put it on my shelf next to the rest of his books and eagerly await the next.
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