Review: Surrogate by David Bernstein


About Surrogate

Rebecca Hardwick wants nothing more than to start a family with her husband. But when a series of tragedies occur, she is left unable to have children by natural means.

Jane Nurelle is in an abusive relationship filled with beatings, drinking and drugs. But when she learns of her pregnancy, she is determined to turn her life around, even if it means resorting to violence.

Through an unlikely series of events, these two women come face-to-face with a notable scientist who has perfected a way for couples to have biologically matched children through the process of human cloning. But his service comes at a price…and the women share more in common than they ever thought possible.

Surrogate is an unforgettable tale of life, love, revenge and maternal instinct.

About the Author

I am a dark fiction writer, because to say horror is a HUGE no no in today's world. Ha Ha! I write the gamut, from subtle horror to extreme horror to dark fiction and thriller, oh, and the occasional bizarro tale.

You may read one of my books and think "that's his style" but then read another and be shocked at how different it is. My novels published by Samhain are usually more toward the true horror side--frightening/gore, whereas my DARKFUSE novels are more experimental or dark thriller/horror. While my Severed Press novels are zombie-related or post-apocalyptic.

Please visit me at for more about me and my work or on Facebook.

My Thoughts

Surrogate is one of those titles where I absolutely loved the premise, but wished it would have gone farther in its execution.

Author David Bernstein does a fine job of creating a credible atmosphere that is ripe with all sorts of potential horrors - from evil doppelgangers to the dark consequences of science run amok. The idea of creating a full-fledged clone for the purpose of surrogate pregnancies is imaginative and just borderline possible enough to make that willing suspension of disbelief all the easier. The measure of desperation that the book's leads, Rebecca, and her husband, Tom, experience make them sympathetic and their choices understand and reasonable, despite the fact that we, as readers, know that everything will soon be going to hell in a hand-basket.

I'm issuing a slight spoiler warning here so I can discuss what didn't work for me, and why.

What didn't work for me was the nature of the threat and the lack of credible underpinnings supporting the Hardwick's adversary, Jane. Jane is an abused spouse who ends up killing her husband on the eve of her delivery, but then ends up dying in a car crash. With little in the way of a satisfactory explanation, Jane's soul somehow comes to inhabit the empty shell of Rebecca's clone and goes on a murderous rampage.

My first problem with this may be due to personal bias. I'm not into spirituality and after an author has gone to such length to develop a plausible scientific rationale to set the story in motion, to suddenly rely on a scant mention that Jane returned from Heaven to get back her daughter is to ask me to stretch my ability to suspend disbelief a bit farther than I'm capable. Although I certainly enjoy a good ghost story, I don't believe in ghosts or goblins or demonic possession in real life. So, in fiction, when a story has already been establish to not be in that type of genre, well, it's really reaching with me and lost quite a bit of credibility as an effective horror story. It felt like a significant chunk of story on Jane's side of the plot was missing entirely, or either lost in editing or, worse, completely forgotten about. To structure this story around cloning and then having an entirely separate individual come to inhabit that cloned body off nothing more than sheer "just because" struck me as really weak story-telling.

My other issue is that when we first meet Jane, she's a beat-up housewife who has been suffering her husband's torment for, it seems, quite a while. And since we never get to really know her, or are allowed to inhabit her headspace for long enough before her demise, to then have her resurrected as some kind of cold-blooded executioner was way off-kilter. Again, it seemed like another instance of Jane behaving this way because the plot demanded it, or "just because," without any prior - and badly necessary - buildup.

End Spoiler

 While there were a few things I enjoyed - the struggles between Rebecca and Jane, primarily, and the moral and ethical dilemmas surrounding the Hardwick's choices and repercussions of their deals with The Agency - I ultimately felt that Surrogate failed to gel as well as it should have. Either one of the narrative's conflicts would have made for a fine story in their own right, if fully developed. Instead, this novella feels more like two half-developed ideas sparsely glued together, with one hamstringing the other and both refusing to set properly.

buy surrogate at amazon

Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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