Compared to Bodeen’s other dystopian offering, The Compound, The Gardener falls a bit short of the expected horror fest. The beginning is a bit clunky, plotwise; things happen a bit too quickly, a bit too easily. And the foreshadowing is *very* heavy-handed (witness Mr. Hogan’s ‘Soylent Green’ t-shirt). Mason learns about autotrophs the very day he meets the at-the-time nameless girl.
Though, while careful readers will be expecting the first twist when Mason meets The Gardner, the second definitely shocked me. And the ending, while a bit too pat (especially the epilogue, which while sweet, was, again too easy), threw me for another loop as I was no longer sure who were the bad guys, or if there were any good guys other than Mason.
While the story itself is engaging and fairly action-filled, the terror I expected to feel while reading this (that I did feel from reading The Compound) never surfaced. True, the kids growing up in an institution is pretty bad, but the experiments didn’t seem ‘horrific’ to me – not compared to what’s actually happening in the world today. And speaking of the world today – that is when this story is set. Possibly even a few years in the past, since even rich people still have dial-up in their ski chalets. That makes it hard to comprehend how TroyDyn could create all this technology, which is seemingly light-years ahead of everything else.
Still, the story is fairly interesting, and while the romance between Mason and the girl doesn’t have any explanation, it’s not too overplayed. But I think this book could have benefited from being a lot longer, to let the tension build.