Inspection by Josh Malerman

I remember Todd Marinovich coming up in the late 80s. Nicknamed Robo QB, he was primed to be the best quarterback in the history of the game. His father started prepping him when he was not even out of the crib. Stretches, throwing mechanics, mental strength drills. He was dubbed “America’s first test-tube athlete” in one Sports Illustrated article. Unfortunately, the glossy veneer surrounding Marinovich started to crack; his college and pro careers just didn’t live up to the hype, and his practice of self-medication took its toll. I thought a lot about this while reading Inspection.

Malerman poses an experiment where twenty-six boys (Alphabet Boys) are isolated from society and brought up free of distractions. From unwanted teachings, thoughts, and especially the influence of the opposite sex. Everything within the Tower is regulated by D.A.D., he who runs the daily physical and mental Inspections. The boys are twelve now and close to the change of life. Everyone within the vacuum is nervously anticipating what puberty will bring to the boys and life within this restricted environment. Malerman shows us the action unfolding from several different perspectives: J, one of the boys who is starting question the system. D.A.D, who has righteous indignation of any and all opposition. Warren, a fiction writer who is hired to “publish” inspiration texts for the boys.

SPOILER PARAGRAPH:

The second half of the book reveals an identical Tower inhabited by 26 girls, a handful of Inspectors/ Teachers, and M.O.M. All is setup to be the same, but without the obvious influence of the opposite gender.

Yet, what happens if one is exposed to the other? The nefarious and the wicked?

The premise of this one is good, but the execution left a little bit to be desired. I will start with the things I liked. This is the kind of story I will always be drawn to… The hunt for the perfect human, to create the perfect conditions, the experiment that will enable humanity to move forward. I found the characters to be unlikable in a good way. I didn’t like D.A.D. nor did I really like Warren. They are obviously complicit in this abuse, and the underlying question is if they will pay for their wrongdoings and/or if they will repent. I’m going to leave it to you to read and find out.

The pacing is what held this one back for me. It is not until about half-way through the book that it really started moving. The reveals are slow to come, and much of the first part is dedicated to building the atmosphere, which unfortunately, I thought was overdone and repetitive at times. The second half of the book ramps up the tension as the possibility of a perfect experiment is quickly lost and the test-tubes get exposed to “contaminants.” D.A.D. and the rest of the Parenthood try as they might to hold tighter to their control.

Like my example from modern-day sports, this book serves as a cautionary tale of what happens when too much influence is exerted on a person’s life. A sly dystopian view that I thought could have used a bit more polish, but was inventive and thought provoking.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Releases on March 19th.

Thank you to NetGalley, Del Rey, and the author for an advanced copy for review.

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