Composite Creatures

This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Buy on Amazon Buy on Buy on
*This page contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you.
Send NetGalley books directly to your Kindle or Kindle app

To read on a Kindle or Kindle app, please add as an approved email address to receive files in your Amazon account. Click here for step-by-step instructions.
Also find your Kindle email address within your Amazon account, and enter it here.
Pub Date Apr 13 2021 | Archive Date Mar 05 2021

Talking about this book? Use #CompositeCreatures #NetGalley. More hashtag tips!


In a society where self-preservation is as much an art as a science, Norah and Arthur are learning how to co-exist in domestic bliss. Though they hardly know each other, everything seems to be going perfectly – from the home they’re building together to the ring on Norah’s finger.
But survival in this world is a tricky thing, the air is thicker every day and illness creeps fast through the body. The earth is becoming increasingly hostile to live in. 
Fortunately, Easton Grove have the answer, a perfect little bundle of fur that Norah and Arthur can take home. All they have to do to live long, happy lives is keep it, or her, safe and close.

File Under: Science Fiction [ Teratoma for One | Nine Lives | Cell Patchwork | Till Death ]
In a society where self-preservation is as much an art as a science, Norah and Arthur are learning how to co-exist in domestic bliss. Though they hardly know each other, everything seems to be going...

Advance Praise

"With a feline inscrutability, Composite Creatures exerts a compelling hold on the imagination – Ray Bradbury meets Sally Rooney. Deliciously creepy!"

– Chris Riddell, triple Award-winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal

"Nuanced prose and great sense of character ground the story as it delves unabashedly into the surreal, consistently catching the reader off guard with eerie imagery and delightful twists on thought-provoking as it is chilling."

Publishers Weekly

"The writing is wistful and works in such a way you don't realise how wonderfully strange the book is until you are enfolded in it."

– RJ Barker, author of The Bone Ships

"A strong debut, and one that makes me want to read more from this up-and-coming author."

– Marija Smits on Bone Ovation

"Caroline Hardaker’s debut poetry pamphlet is a triumph of contemporary myth-making."

– Sabotage Reviews

"With a feline inscrutability, Composite Creatures exerts a compelling hold on the imagination – Ray Bradbury meets Sally Rooney. Deliciously creepy!"

– Chris Riddell, triple Award-winner of the Kate...

Marketing Plan

- Widespread review coverage in major print and online outlets, in both the mainstream and SF/F/Horror press

- Guest posts and author interviews in online media and bookblogs

- Radio and podcast interview appearances

- Blog tours with sci fi/fantasy/horror and generalist bookblogs and bookstagrammers

- Online launch event/s

If you're a reviewer, bookblogger or bookstagrammer interested in reviewing Composite Creatures or talking to Caroline Hardaker, publicist Caroline Lambe would love to hear from you at!

- Widespread review coverage in major print and online outlets, in both the mainstream and SF/F/Horror press

- Guest posts and author interviews in online media and bookblogs

- Radio and podcast...

Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9780857669025
PRICE $14.99 (USD)

Average rating from 44 members

Featured Reviews

Composite Creatures had me hooked from the beginning to the end. I don’t think I have ever finished a book this fast. When I wasn’t actively reading the book I was obsessing over imagining what might come next.

The book takes place in a time when the earth has been strained to the point of breaking including the contamination of the air and soil, and the absence of most animals. The main characters, Norah and Arthur, begin as strangers and we as readers get to know them as they get to know each other. At the heart of the novel is the struggle for survival and the varying lengths that Norah, Arthur and their friends will go to in order to improve their chances for survival. What I most enjoyed was that the book was cryptic with horror undertones which kept me at the edge of my seat anticipating and guessing what might be coming next.

Was this review helpful?

The description in this novel is thorough and lovely. This book was amazing and I would definitely read it again, as well as read from this author again. I really liked the narrative style, it is something I would like to bring to my own writing.

Was this review helpful?

Composite creatures tells the tale of a future, where Earth has gone toxic and wildlife is extinct. We follow the story of Norah as she learns what is means to survive in this world.
I really enjoyed the storytelling style - it really lets us take a look into the main character's mind. This gives the story some unexpected nuances. The furry bundle of joy, that the Grove gives to Norah, is our greatest mystery, as Norah herself is not sure what she has signed up for, and we're on the road of discovery with her.
The way the author embedded so many important topics and the way she addresses it all, is lovely, and it's something else I really like about the the book.

I recommend the book, if the description catches your eye - you (most probably) won't be disappointed.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Angry Robot for providing me with an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.*

Was this review helpful?

Norah and Art seem like a nice, normal couple, but they are living in a dystopian future where there are no birds or animals and few plants. They met through Easton Grove, an unusual matching agency with a purpose, and soon fall in love. Then from the agency a small furry creature comes into their lives. They name it Nut and their job is to nurture it and let it grow for a particular purpose, which is slowly revealed. Norah forms an attachment to the creature and treats it like a cross between a pet and a child. Their friends are horrified when they find out what she is doing. Art becomes ill and Nut is needed to do what she was made for. This is a disturbing story, reminiscent of Kazuo Ishiguro's novel. Never Let Me Go. The writing style is flawless and the tension grows to a satisfying conclusion.

Was this review helpful?

Let me start with saying that I loved the writing style of this book. It was beautiful and descriptive, albeit rather terrifying at times.

The book begins with a couple named Norah and Art being "matched up" and beginning to date. As their relationship progresses, we start to learn more and more about the circumstances of their relationship, as well as the kind of world they are now living in, a true dystopian future. When Nut is introduced, more and more comes to light about the purpose of this animal and what it means for their future.

This book was a slow start for me. It took quite a while to really settle into the groove of the story but once it did I was very pleased with the direction it went. However it was very confusing at times and often left me frustrated with the extremely slow paced reveal of what was actually happening. It definitely forced you to think. By the end, it all came together into one crazy explanation of events that are hopefully in a future far far away from anything we will ever experience. I have thought about this book a lot since I finished it a few days ago and have a feeling it will stick with me for quite a while.

*I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Was this review helpful?

This was dystopian fiction right up my street. I like my stories dark, layered, unique and with excellent writing - this delivered on all of that and more.

The ecological disaster dystopia is a fresh change from wars, and I loved the slow burning nature of the story with the two MCs and the backstory was slowly (painfully at times but gripping!) played out.

I loved the writing - utterly perfect.

5 stars

Was this review helpful?

A beautifully written and masterfully unravelled story that challenges the idea of humanity.

Composite Creatures by Caroline Hardaker is really well put together. The prose are spot on for the subjects explored and works great with the use of first person. We really get to know the main character, Norah, and just what does and doesn’t make her tick. The level of intimacy that Hardaker builds between reader and Norah is fantastic. Almost to the point that Norah becomes a close friend. It felt like I grew to know her so well during the read. This I have not witnessed in a book to this degree before and I really enjoyed it.

Caroline Hardaker also works wonders with character background which helps further build the connection with the character. If you read my reviews regularly then you will know just how much I enjoy good character development and establishing character background is key to doing just that. We get unrestricted access to the thoughts, feelings and memories of Norah which is no surprise being the book is written in first person. Norah often thinks back to a long past childhood where things were much different and this really helps to build the scene.

With all that being said I did find the story to be a slow burner and at times I just wanted the story to ramp up and start spilling the beans. It’s not until much later in the book maybe around 60-70% of the way through that the story really started to get traction and we get to see what is really going on. Now, throughout the book we do get little clues that the eagle eyed will pick up on but if not then the book may be a little too much of a slow burner for you. I will say that if you persevere and keep with it you are in for a beautifully written ending.

I was expecting a little more in the way of world building from what the synopsis says and we do get snippets here and there of what the world has become but the majority of the setting comes about in how our main character refers and interacts with the world around her. However Composite Creatures is much more about exploring humanity and how the world around us effects our humanity rather than the world so maybe the true nature of the story would be lost if there was more emphasis on world building. Hardaker has really challenged the way I think and perceive the world around me and that is exactly what Angry Robot is all about and why I love the books they publish.

Overall Composite Creatures was a good read and I will recommend it to those wanting something a little different from the normal sci-fi scene. It is a slow burner so be warned if that is not your thing but this is more than made up for with the beautiful story that is unravelled before us.

Was this review helpful?

Well, now, this is a Marmite book... and I’m a fan of Marmite.

It seems that the very things which put some people off, appealed to me: slow, creepy, cryptic, dystopian.

The writing style is deliberately languid, with a building sense of dread. They’re not in the least bit similar but the only other book I’ve read that’s created that stinging-nettle sensation of anguish was “Affinity” by Sarah Waters. “Composite Creatures” isn’t a horror story, per se, but finishing it was both disorientating and a relief.

Consider me very excited to see what Caroline Hardaker publishes next.

Was this review helpful?

This is a potential "thinker" at times. Solid sci-fi written with good prose, interesting characters, and the author's vivid imagination. Recommended to dystopian sci-fi fans.

I really appreciate the ARC for review!!

Was this review helpful?

Caroline Hardaker’s Composite Creatures is one of those beautifully delicious and quirky reads which is not quite what you expect it to be; the type of book where you must trust the author to take you where you will need to go … eventually. But first, you will experience a winding and often uncomfortable journey.

In this new novel, Hardaker creates a world where pollution has corrupted the air and the earth, where disease spreads quickly through human bodies; a world which, sadly, is not so difficult to imagine. Norah is a young woman who lost her mother years ago to such an illness. Now as an adult out on her own, and thanks to her meagre inheritance, she has solicited the help of the illusive Easton Grove. The public knows only what Easton Grove wants them to know about the healthcare they provide for the wealthy: that they have developed a means of supporting a long, healthy life despite the decaying world around them. They have even matched Norah with Arthur, a kind and successful young writer who seems to make a fantastic partner and may just be someone Norah can love one day.

Reflecting back on her life and choices, Norah tells her story as a way to make sense of what she has done over the years in the name of self-preservation. Through this narrative, Hardaker slowly opens layer after layer to the reader, sharing more and more about Norah’s unique partnership with Arthur, the life they have chosen to live together, and the furry little creature Easton Grove claims is the key to their longevity.

From the very start Hardaker’s writing will pull you in, creating an underlying sense of horror and dread as you flip page after page trying to figure out what in the hell is going on in this world. She is skilled at simultaneously pulling the reader forward with the narrative, yet also building a sense of discomfort and unease. And she paints such a clear picture of how this fading world both looks and feels. Bleak yet compelling, this novel takes an unexpected look at our mortality by examining what really makes a life worth living, by asking if a longer life really means a better life? And if so, at what cost?

More tender, complex, and introspective than perhaps the synopsis conveys, Composite Creatures is sure to be loved by fans of character-driven novels and eerily atmospheric tales. The reader will find themselves not so much pushing to reach the conclusion for the sake of finding out what happens, but rather simply going along for the ride, even as they may feel afraid to turn the page.

Was this review helpful?

Reviewed by my friend, Nils, from Fantasy Hive

Composite Creatures by Caroline Hardaker is a thought-provoking dystopian debut which continuously questions what it truly means to be alive in a dying world.

Over the years Earth has essentially become toxic, the soil and air has become contaminated, many species of wildlife and plants have become extinct, and sickness reigns through the human race cutting their lifespan far too short. Yet a beacon of hope emerges in the form of a medical institution called Eastern Grove, scientists cannot yet promise a cure, but they have found a way to prolong life. The only drawback is what will it cost?

The novel begins with our main protagonist Norah meeting a writer called Art, in a restaurant in London, on a seemingly ordinary awkward first date. As we slowly meander through Norah’s day to day life, things progress and we quickly learn that their relationship is far from a normal one. I think it’s fair to begin by saying if you’re expecting a fast paced read with plenty of shocking turn of events, then you’ll be sorely disappointed. Composite Creatures simply isn’t that kind of novel, however it is a remarkable window into the human psyche.

“In the bedroom mirror I looked like me and not like me. A dream version of me. All grown up now. I pressed a cold glass of water against my neck to cool the red petals of anxiety blooming up my throat.”

Through Hardaker’s first person narration we get an intimate look into Norah’s relationship with Art, her connection to Eastern Grove and their growing involvement in her life, we also witness her strained friendship with Eleanor, Rosie and Aubrey and how Nut, a mysterious creature akin to a cat, impacts her life. We learn of her childhood, and through her poignant memories of the times spent with her mother we envisage the world before it became toxic, of all the animals which roamed free but no longer exist. Her mother was a being of the past raising a child of a future where the very air was killing her breath by breath, and I appreciated Hardaker showing the toll that takes on both parties. There were moments where I felt perhaps the plot stalled too much, particularly during the middle section where Norah falls into a repetitive routine, nonetheless despite this I was always compelled to read on. Norah often appears fairly detached from people and the world at large, she’s never quite sure who loves her or even sure who she loves. She’s a character we can sympathise with, a character who I felt for, because she’s clearly vulnerable, lonely and extremely insecure.

“My idea of the natural world was a fairytale, based on the storybooks I read at school or the stretching cats in Mum’s paintings. She captured wild things amidst the slow tide of extinction. She looked over her shoulder as the planet moved forward.”

Hardaker’s prose is pensive, melancholic and lyrical. Each chapter swept me along on Norah’s journey, her growing need to connect with Art and her anxiety and dependency towards the creature Nut kept me turning the page, I found the mystery made it very hard for me to put the book down. I was particularly drawn to Hardaker’s exploration of ethics. Eastern Grove may boast of their success at prolonging life but it is only accessible to the wealthy, and their methods are more than questionable. Even those who can afford treatment soon realise the consequences of putting their lives in the hands of a corporation. In essence Eastern Grove is a corrupt institution playing God, and also exploiting lives to gain money and prestige. The way the novel reflects upon these subjects fascinated me, like many who live in Britain I have come to rely upon our NHS healthcare, but what if that became privatised, what if suddenly life-saving treatments were no longer affordable?

Although I haven’t read the book Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, I have watched the film adaptation and I have to say that this book reminded me a lot of it. I feel they both share the uncomfortable themes of an institution deciding who lives and who dies, of your life never being in your control, of loving something or someone, watching them grow and then losing them. Of a life becoming something to be harvested rather than lived.

Composite Creatures is an engaging psychological read with an unsettling atmosphere. This isn’t my usual kind of read, but by the end I fully appreciated Hardaker‘s cleverly written novel where even the title reflects upon so much. We are all creatures made up of many parts, but which of those parts make us human?

“One day bleeds into the next, and though the tide washes in and out, it’s the same sea. You’ve plugged your toes in the sand. This beach isn’t going anywhere.”

ARC provided by Caroline Lambe at AngryRobot. Thank you for the copy! All quotes used are taken from an e-ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Composite Creatures is released on April 13th but you can preorder it now!

Was this review helpful?

In the not-too-distant future, the prognosis is grim for humanity. Centuries of human activity have contributed to not only the death of innumerable species of plants and animals, but have also begun to exact a heavier toll on our own bodies. With toxicity levels increasing constantly, we are being poisoned by the planet we have so mistreated with every breath we take. In an effort to extend their lifespans and stave off “the greying,” Norah and her new partner Art turn to the mysterious Easton Grove; the company’s novel answer - to supply them with a furry bundle of joy to care for - the beginning of potentially long and healthy lives for both of them. As long as they can keep it safe.

The plausibility of much of the world of Composite Creatures is certainly chilling. Hardaker paints a picture of a world which from a distance might look relatively healthy, but up close is frequently an elaborate sham. Grass which squeaks when you walk on it, patchwork animals burrowing through dying hedgerows, cardboard pinecones… it’s all the work of an industrious humanity that’s trying to buy itself time and deny the realities of the situation with typical ingenuity and fakery. Off in the distant fields, veiled scatterers treating the land with a cocktail of chemicals serve as a constant reminder of the illusory control we have over our environment, their desperate and life-shortening work a necessary evil. It’s a world we recognise, but one that’s been twisted and warped artfully.

It’s not just the world itself though - everything about Composite Creatures is just so perfectly off-kilter, seemingly mundane facades obscuring the frequently disturbing reality. The relationship between Norah and Art, for example, would seem fairly normal from the outside, but actually it’s anything but. They met each other through Easton Grove, who appear to have a vested interest in getting the two of them together, as well as being intensely interested in how things are going for them personally. The exact nature of the programme which they have signed up for is unclear for much of the novel, its purpose revealed through a gradual drip feed of hints and clues which, when viewed with hindsight, is masterfully well done. Crucially, this deliberately crafted air of mystery never frustrates; its careful cultivation in fact makes the reader feel as if they’re in on the secret despite not actually knowing what it is.

As the plot gradually unwinds, we’re also treated to fleeting glimpses of Norah’s past life, showing the decisions that led her to her current situation with Art, as well as developing her character further. It all feels very intense in its focus, as she is increasingly confronted with her past actions by the vague allusions of her friends, as well as by her own persistent and frequently painful memories. With the mysterious creature to care for, Norah becomes more withdrawn from the rest of the world too, with the intensity of focus ramping up to positively claustrophobic levels - it’s practically impossible not to get completely invested in her story, with all of its very human messy decisions, regrets and recriminations.

Composite Creatures has real staying power. You can practically feel it clinging to you as you read, working its way under your skin insidiously on its way to total absorption. Its subtle wrongness is wonderfully unsettling, its mysteries engaging and enticing, with a main character who feels utterly believable. A dark delight.

Was this review helpful?

One part sly dystopian, one part “what the heck did I just read,” and one part creepy creepfest! This equals an inventive and compulsive read by debut author Caroline Hardaker.
The reader will get to know a little about Norah’s past and her dreams of the future, but the majority of the book is set squarely in the present. The present. The now of Norah’s life. Her assigned partner Art. Her boring cubicle job. And their new addition… made ready for harvest.

Y’see, the air outside hasn’t gotten any better in this near future. And with more pollutants everywhere, the price of good food has gone up, and health care? Forget about it! Get in line… especially if you’ve contracted The Greying. But if you have the money, you may be able to afford to go to a clinic like Easton Grove. They will provide you with services and a bundle of joy that will help you prolong your life.

I woke up this morning at 5am with 15% left in this book… actually, I’m not really sure how I fell asleep last night, ha! Well, I turned over, away from my wife (didn’t want to disturb and dove back in… needing to finish. I left to work with 7% left. Usually I want my Fridays to end quickly, but today, I wanted to time travel!


Hardaker’s has great skill at holding back just enough to get the reader to keep compulsively turning pages… As I said above, this is one of those books where the first person narrator picks and chooses what to focus on… and much of that focus is on the new developments in Norah’s life. Things are forgotten and dismissed and Norah may delude herself at times, but the pieces that Hardaker does give us just add to that creepy atmosphere.

And yes… a bit of “What the hell did I just read?” I spent the first third of the book asking questions: Is this going to be like The Handmaid’s Tale? Or Never Let Me Go? But I quickly decided it’s like neither, a compelling story that questions everything about our future and combines it with unique storytelling. The quiet creep…

Pick up Composite Creatures for a frightening look at our own mortality and a compelling narrator to hold our hand throughout…

4.5 out of 5

Thank you to NetGalley, Angry Robot Books, and the author for an advanced copy for review.

Was this review helpful?

While set against a dystopian backdrop, this is a very human tale (or maybe not?) of complex relationships and need. The writing is compelling and creates a believable world in which this usual and original story exists.

I would wholeheartedly recommend this book. My only slight criticism is that sometimes the excellent prose can slow the plot. For me this was fine, but I can see some people may give up. Don’t you will be rewarded with an excellent finale.

I look forward to reading more books by this author.

Was this review helpful?

Well, that was a bit different! Set in the future (but not very far ahead), the world is dying - all plants, birds, animals appear to be on the edge of extinction and man too, because we have poisoned the soil and the air.

Norah moves in with Art, apparently with the approval of Easton Grove, a shadowy organisation who offer those with enough money the chance to avoid dying young from cancer or 'the greying'. And part of this care includes the provision of a small 'creature', one that they initially keep in their attic, but which gradually becomes a pet, a friend, a child.

We are left puzzling about this weird creature, its role and its appearance. Is it sentient? Why do they have it? The answers are quite slow in coming, although I did work it out part way through.

Its a well-written and quite powerful book; the reader identifies very closely with Norah and the book is written from her perspective. Gave me food for thought.

Thank you to NetGalley and Angry Robot for allowing me access to the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

Caroline Hardaker constructs an intriguing universe in this book, and it's one that keeps the pages turning for the reader as the narrative unfolds. A worthwhile and enjoyable science fiction text.

Was this review helpful?

Firstly, huge thank you to Angry Robot and NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Composite Creatures is set in the not too distant future: in a world where the air is thicker everyday and more and more people are falling victim to the greying. Norah and Arthur’s only hope for survival in such a world is through Easton Grove who will provide you with your own little bundle to keep and harvest when necessary...

I need to start off this review by saying that I completely loved this book, it tackles a subject that I’m fascinated by and I didn’t even realise it until I was at least three quarters of the way through. Due to the nature of the book, and the fact that there are so many moments where you will have a ‘penny drop’ realisation, I have to be quite careful with my rambling over this book as there’s so much I want to say about it and why I loved it, but most of those reasons are because of what I discovered for myself and the feeling of “wait… what?!” that I had at so many points throughout this novel.

It’s a personal favourite of mine when authors can effortlessly build mystery and the world around the characters without explicitly sitting the reader down, so to speak, and giving us a history lesson. This is something that Hardaker does masterfully, you always know just enough to understand the context of what is happening but not to see the wider picture. Whilst there were a couple of times I would have liked more information, it’s more down to personal preference rather than what it would have added to the story. I don’t think that it was missing these particular aspects, they would have just been a ‘nice to have’. Despite this, it is the mystery and intrigue around these characters and this society which keeps you utterly absorbed. It also felt like there was something symbolic over being kept in the dark, the way that both Norah and Art have to keep their friends, and society, in the dark over what they are doing with Easton Grove. This is further emphasised when you begin to wonder if Norah and Art even understand the full extent behind the mysteriously helpful company.

The entire novel is from Norah’s perspective which I really enjoyed, especially as she developed; from being positive and certain regarding her membership with Easton Grove to beginning to doubt and question it. I also liked the fact that it was Norah looking back too, as this added to the suspense: she makes references to wishing she knew certain things then as she does now, which just makes you wonder what happened to her to feel that way. At first I couldn’t see how Norah and Art fit together, the relationship felt very forced and unnatural; however, there were times where I could understand how they worked and after finishing the novel I can see how this is just another brilliantly subtle nod to how their lives aren’t what they initially seem.

Of course, I can’t talk about characters without discussing Nut, their furry friend that they need to keep secret and safe or risk losing their membership with Easton Grove, and potentially much more. I loved the way that Nut was described, you couldn’t quite work out what kind of creature she was exactly. The fluid image I had of her which changed depending on who was interacting with her and where made me even more curious as to how she fit into this harsh world. A world in which the birds have disappeared and in a desperate attempt to get funding, the NHS have joined with a faceless corporation to help care for people. Nut was such a delight and joy in the safe space of the house, which was an excellent contrast to the terrifying near future of the UK.

Overall, there is nothing else I can really say apart from you need to pick this book up when it is published on 13 April.

Was this review helpful?

This is one of the weirdest and most beautifully written books I've read and totally the type of book I can't get enough of.

It's somehow "quiet horror" without actually containing horror, but there's a constant sense of unease, wrongness, and anxiety like horror. In the beginning, Hardaker introduces the somewhat strange main character and puts the reader right into the bleak, futuristic world that is desperately losing the climate war. She lets the context explain many pieces of the world building in a seamless, intelligent way that I find so impressive. She wrote this in such a way that I never quite knew what was going on or what was going to happen or what the point was, but I mean that in a good way--like, that was the goal. It read like being the maze in the house of the wonderful book House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski.

The whole book takes place in the main character's head. She is strange and introverted while also being very average and simple. I was in awe by how Hardaker put to words certain anxieties I have felt, but it was also unnerving in that way that horror readers get addicted to.

I don't know how to explain or review this book properly. It's so weird. I also don't want to spoil it, because it unfolds so darkly and deliciously, crawling under your skin bit by bit. I suppose I would want to share with others that this book is definitely not for everyone, but likely for the reader who enjoys quiet horror, weird books, House of Leaves type of reads. Finishing it left me in that book hangover stupor, and I can't stop thinking about it.

Thank you NetGalley and Angry Robot for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review!

Was this review helpful?

Wow, talk about a round house to the head and a solid punch to the gut. Everything is dying in this book and the main character is clinging to one of the things that makes humans humans, compassion, and no one around her gets it. This story is like if David Cronenberg wrote and directed an episode of the Twilight Zone. There's not much action but as the story unfolds there's this rising sense of wrongness and I felt massively unsettled. I kinda had an idea if where things were going a little earlier than the final reveal but I don't think it was meant as a GOTCHA type thing, it was more like another deposit in the "oh shit this is creepy" account and then let's get on with things. I loved the writing and thought the author had a very unique and interesting way of describing things and putting things like feelings and sensations and other abstract concepts into words. I see she has written poetry before this and it definitely shows as the unique writing is one of the main reasons the narrator is so compelling and the story is so engrossing.

Another absolutely fantastic Angry Robot release and I want to thank them, Netgalley, and Caroline Hardaker for the opportunity to read this.

Was this review helpful?

I was intrigued by the description and was drawn into Norah's world. The world has become toxic, wildlife is all but extinct and plant life is struggling. The human race tries to stem off these affects by eating organically, keeping out of cities but this is not an option for everyone. Health care in the UK is more of a lottery but if you have the funds you could be part of an exclusive program designed to keep you in the best of health. Norah and Art are part of such a program base at Easton Grove - they meet there, are deemed genetically compatible, exchange portfolios and become a couple. As part of the program they share a creature which Norah calls Nut - you are never sure if this is a pet or part human as Nut is described as having fur but also hands. In fact the book has many tantalising reveals with gaps for the reader to make their own conclusions.
Ethics of creating something that is sentient to be used by the original donor is explored and we follow Norah as she increasingly isolates herself and develops her obsession with Nut the key to her and Arts longevity.
My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for access to thie ARC

Was this review helpful?

Almost everything that we see daily would feel strange and alien to someone out of time. Show an Ancient Roman a modern carrot and they would ask why it was so large and orange. In Caroline Hardaker’s Composite Creatures the world has changed a lot. The sky is constantly covered with thick clouds and plants only grow with copious amounts of dangerous fertilisers. The days of owning a household pet are over. Therefore, try describing a cat to these near-future folk. It’s a strange hairy creature that stands on four paws. You can see what they look like in the history vids, so why does yours have a face that looks a little like your husbands?

Norah lives an everyday existence. She goes to work, comes home to make dinner and watches some television. Life in the future for most folk is pretty much the same as it is now, expect when it is not. Pollution has killed most life apart from humans and rather than becoming extinct we cling onto some semblance of life using science to cultivate food. Many people are catching the Greying and dying young, but the lucky few like Norah have become members of Easton Grove, the private healthcare provider who will keep you living decades longer than most. The price? A life partner who is compatible with your biology and a new pet that looks like a cat, but also something else.

Science Fiction is a fantastic genre as it can handle so many different types of tone from bombastic space operas, to the eerie, yet familiar. Composite falls into this second camp and in many ways, it is the story of a standard relationship that just happens to be taking place in an exceptional time. The book has a strange unerring feel to it reminiscent of The Outer Limits or The Twilight Zone. Tonally this is the life of everyday people, and it is up to the reader to glean the strange world around them.

It is the poetic world building that is a highlight. Hardaker has a wonderful sense of place, and they paint this near future in asides and everyday actions. Norah and her chosen partner Arthur have a normal life, for the time, and it is only because we live in a world of blue skies and fields of crops that it seems odd to us. Even so, there are some oddities afoot with the mysterious Easton Grove and their health program. Why have they provided the pair with a creature that has to live in the attic?

As the book progresses and Norah’s world starts to unravel the earlier tempo and tone of the book comes to fruition with a vibrant and compelling final act. Hardaker uses the strange sense of place to lull the reader into a false sense of security. Hidden within the poetry and broken future are real instances of shocking Science Fiction and Horror. By the time the mystery begins to reveal itself, the reader should be fully immersed.
With its florid language and slightly out of step feel, Composite Creatures is not a book you can pick up as an easy read. To get the most from the book the reader should try and concentrate on the half- truths and hidden agendas that lie behind the central relationship. What is the mysterious Easton Grove and why have they provided Norah and Arthur with this small cat they are required to nurture? All will be explained in Hardaker’s own style that is not quite like anything else you are likely to have read.

Was this review helpful?

Readers who liked this book also liked: