A compelling near-future literary novel, psychological thriller and family drama
Set 17 years into a very recognisable future, Fauna is an astonishing psychological drama with an incredible twist: What if the child you are carrying is not entirely human?
Using DNA technology, scientists have started to reverse the extinction of creatures like the mammoth and the Tasmanian tiger. The benefits of this radical approach could be far-reaching. But how far will they go?
Longing for another child, Stacey is recruited by a company who offer massive incentives for her to join an experimental programme called LifeBLOOD. As part of the agreement, she and her husband's embryo will be blended with 'edited cells'. Just how edited, Stacey doesn't really know. Nor does she have any idea how much her longed-for new daughter will change her life and that of her family. Or how hard she will have to fight to protect her.
Fauna is a transformative, lyrical and moving novel about love and motherhood, home and family - and what it means to be human.
This is an original and intriguing debut novel that would be an excellent choice for book clubs. There is so much to explore in this book and I had so many thoughts and questions after reading it that I'd love to discuss with fellow readers. I have a feeling it's going to be very provocative and controversial.
Set in the near future, scientists have started to use genetic technology to bring back extinct animals, such as the woolly mammoth and Tasmanian tiger, and now they have gone one step further and have started secret medical trials involving human gene editing. Stacey and Isak have enrolled in one such program to conceive and bring up a child that will be very different, but one that is expected to be important for survival of the human race. They already have two healthy children but recently lost an unborn baby, so Stacey is looking forward to another pregnancy and child as well as the financial incentive the trial will pay will help to make their lives a lot easier.
When the baby is born, she does look a little different to their other children but Stacey and Isak both bond strongly with her and would do anything to protect her. However, Stacey soon finds that their new child affects the way she is able to interact with the outside world and her ability to be the sort of mother she wants to be for her other children. Although Stacey felt a strong love for her new child, I felt very sorry for her in the way she was forced to constrain her choices for the way she now has to live her life and also the knowledge that the child will one day be taken from them.
So much of this seems unethical it is hard to imagine that such a situation could happen. Or could it? I'd like to think that we have sufficient regulations around the use of genetic technology to prevent it, but experimentation on animals is already allowed to test whether a human genetic condition can be corrected, so who is to say where the line will be drawn in the future, especially if the definition of human becomes blurred? Already scientists are able to genetically alter a patient's immune cells to add a protein that will recognise and fight their tumour (CAR-T cells) and a Chinese scientist has recently been jailed for using gene editing technology in human embryos resulting in three live births (see https://www.nature.com/articles/d4158...). This is definitely a thought provoking book, with its horrifying vision of the future, as well as a compassionate look at one family and their love for their special child.
With many thanks to Allen & Unwin for an ARC to read
Fauna is a compelling novel, I started it last night and loafed in bed today until I'd finished reading it. The really interesting thing about it, is that although you find out what happens in the end, you don't, not really, and that is very creepy indeed. The novel is a highly intelligent work of fiction which made me think of the disconcerting issues raised by Paddy O'Reilly's remarkable novel The Wonders which also raised questions about what it is that makes us human.
Fauna is set in a very near future, in a world so very nearly like the present. It begins in the everyday Perth suburbs, with a family eating takeaway in the messiness of daily life, the kids Emmy and Jake going to school and weekend sport, Isak (the father) busy with work and paying the bills, and Stacey, newly pregnant ad wholly absorbed in her future child. There are brief allusions to the messiness of the world on TV, and to the comfort and relief of watching people cook and renovate houses.
But with the birth of the infant, the family takes up an offer of a lifestyle far beyond their means and they move to a beautiful but isolated property in southwest WA where the family's predicament is less likely to arouse interest. This suits the researchers who are operating on the edges of legality but it exacerbates Stacey's loneliness. Like The Wonders, this novel draws attention to the intrusive media which can make life hell for anyone who is different, and she fears interaction with anyone outside their small family in case awkward questions are asked. Because what this couple have done is to assuage their longing for another child by participating in an IVF research project which mixes their genes with those of some other creature. It's part of a project to reverse the extinction of creatures like the Tasmanian Tiger. LifeBLOOD® does not tell them much about what they are in for, but with the arrival of Asta, their anxieties move far beyond worrying about whether their semi-human offspring will be hairy or not.
The novel traces Asta's development year by year in successive chapters, and what becomes clear is that the confidentiality provisions of the contract they have signed have turned their lives into something resembling a witness protection program.
- thanks to @allenandunwin for sending the book my way!
Longing for another child, Stacey is recruited by a company who offer massive incentives for her to join an experimental programme. As part of the agreement, she and her husband's embryo will be blended with 'edited cells'. Just how edited, Stacey doesn't know. Nor does she have any idea how much her longed-for new daughter will change her life and that of her family...
I was very intrigued to read Fauna for the sole reason of exploring the concept of humans birthing non-humans babies, in a sci-fi scenario, because how far are we really from this wild notion?
Although I moved forward in the story because of the intrigue, the writing style was exasperatingly distracting. I was quickly and continuously sidetracked from the story due to lengthy descriptions of scenery that did not contribute much, and repetitive scenes with meaningless dialogue. The pace was languid, and halfway through I started losing interest as realistically, not much happens.
We don't get to see much of Stacey's family dynamic before the pregnancy, so it was tough to connect with them as we only get to know the characters under the duress of extraordinary circumstances. I failed to be moved by Stacey's protectiveness and obsession, as I felt somehow inexplicably detached from her throughout the book. I believe there was so much more Stacey to explore: her relationship with her other children and her husband, who seemed to recede to a pretty faraway background after Asta is born.
Overall, Fauna made me feel sad and confused. I cannot stop asking myself, what was the point of the story? The ending was anticlimactic and feeble and not at all what I was expecting. If you are looking for a read about the controversies of science and parenthood, I'd recommend reading The Mothers by Genevieve Gannon.
Fauna is an interesting read that touches on many pressing contemporary anxieties, turning a quasi-science fiction piece into a believable, unsettling possibility.
The novel raises compelling discussion points on the ethics in scientific research, philosophical questions of morality such as Philippa Foot’s Trolley Problem, female agency, and the exploitation of the working class that would make it a perfect book club read. It may leave one questioning whether, as I did myself, if you knew your child would be taken from you less than a decade after its birth, would you bring them into your world? Could you?
This was such an interesting and intriguing book. I loved the concept - it’s like a very believable not-too-distant-future science fiction book, which is right up my alley. It also talks a lot about the joys and hardships of being a new mother, which I love reading about after having been through that tumultuous time as well.
The writing style took me a bit to get used to - it’s very evocative and visceral, and it feels like you’re inside her head reading her thoughts. But once I was used to it I actually really enjoyed the style - it made me feel so much closer to Stacey.
My one frustration with the book was that I couldn’t relate to the main character - she often did things that I found completely nonsensical. However, to be fair, she does have postnatal depression for a lot of the book, and is also in the completely unique situation of raising a child that’s not 100% human, and I don’t know how I’d react in either of these situations either.
Overall, such an interesting, thought-provoking read. I think this one would be great for a book club!
Fauna is perhaps best classified as “eco-gothic speculative fiction”, but that’s a bit of a tongue twister. It falls somewhere between feminist dystopias, like The Handmaid’s Tale, and contemporary Australian climate fiction, like Dyschronia. In it, Donna Mazza imagines a too-near speculative future where a company, Lifeblood(R), offers huge incentives for women to join an experimental genetics program splicing non-human DNA into embryos for in-vitro fertilisation. My thanks to Allen & Unwin for sending me a review copy!
I can’t tell you too much about the plot of Fauna, because – as is the way with speculative novels – most of the impact comes from the slow unveiling of the truth. What I will say is that it grapples with big themes (the nature of personhood, motherhood, grief, yearning, and reckoning with one’s deal with the devil), and it will surely spark a lot of debate at book club!
The economy of Mazza’s prose belies the narrative’s – or more particularly its characters’ – icebergian depth. Every word feels carefully chosen and painstakingly placed, every page a blistering rainfall of ideas and imagery made up of individual drops all falling towards the same purpose, narrative- and gravity-driven wonder. This is a beautifully written book, and the language flows in a consistent and engaging tone. Stacey is a character very much in her own head, but Mazza is canny enough to constantly engage and relate her protagonist to aspects of the world around her, the human often juxtaposed with the environment. Animals and wildlife are always close by, playing a significant role in the characters’ lives and contributing to the novel’s thematic core. Little details add weight to the story’s mood and accentuate Mazza’s crystalline imagery. In one scene, tension “hangs in a silent wake that seems to hiss”, which is evocative by itself, until “a languid fly crawls across a convex mango skin scraped clean by small teeth.” Fauna’s world feels lived-in and tactile, constantly responding to and being shaped by its characters. Stacey’s point of view is cleverly taken advantage of, and there’s a sly disparity between her dialogue and her inner thoughts, in the spaces between people, what’s spoken and unspoken. Mazza teases out this dichotomy with the glacial weight of all the complicated emotions and tensions and knots that lie between two people in a long-term relationship, their words often inadequate at articulating the vastness and complexity of their emotions.
I am someone who doesn't like to watch trailers or know anything about a movie, which I feel is a great practice that I'll carry over onto this book shit as well; so I saw this cover, thought it was tight and that was that. I'm pretty happy with that decision and I found Fauna to be a pretty fantastic character study of a woman- a mother, that is having an "unusual" child. That's a simplified version of this book, but also entirely what it takes up; the straightforward narrative is mostly a platform for exploring themes like femininity, motherhood, love and family, humanity and then into territory like privacy, control, morality and ethics.
This was incredibly interesting to read as a man and I feel huge credit must be given purely based off how strong I felt in the portrayal of a woman's bond to her child and that idea of bringing life into the world. I was so involved and connected to that idea at every twist and turn and it really hit for almost the entire 300ish pages and is one of the best things about the book. And on top of that emotional connection I had to Stacey and her situation, it was one that also inspired a seemingly endless revolving door of morality, something I am a fan of.
This often reminded me of The Truman Show and Rosemary's Baby, which is as big a compliment I can give and for the most part this was a breeze, and a treat to read through. I'd recommend this almost exclusively for those existential themes and questions, which I am intrigued by myself and haven't stopped thinking about since I first started reading.
Fauna is the story of Stacey and Isak. Set in the not too distant future, they volunteer to be part of genetic research - and so Stacey is impregnated with a child that contains the DNA of her and Isak - but also of the Neanderthal. The novel follows Stacey during her pregnancy and the first years of her daughter's life.
Beautifully told, and filled with lyrical prose - Mazza has a gift for describing the mundane to making it beautiful - Fauna is a fascinating read - and one I'd love to hear other's thoughts on.
Stacey tells the whole story in first person, and I guess the problem I had is that I struggled to bond with her as the narrator. She seemed detached from everything in the world except the child she was carrying - even her existing children and husband. It was a strange juxtaposition - she has this overwhelming, all-encompassing love for one child, but not the others? Towards the middle it seemed to feel a bit repetitive too. And I understand that was the point - the new days with a new baby, those early days and weeks and month do just blur into each other. So much more could have been done with that time though. I wonder if seeing other's perspectives would have helped? It would have been fascinating to see more from the research team, or even from Isak's perspective.
On that point though - I would have loved to have seen more of Stacey's motivation to join the program. A few things are hinted at - miscarriage, money, an interest in archaeology - but none were explored with any real depth to indicate why she was willing to do this. Had she thought through the future repercussions of her actions? Being part of her pre-pregnancy psychological assessments would have made for even fascinating reading.
Fauna certain raises a lot of questions regarding ethics in research, and what Stacey and Isak endured, and Asta as well. Do scientists have the right to manipulate the genes in humans? Is there a line that cannot be crossed? And if we are allowing human testing for research, what right do scientists have to experiment on those who can't give their consent? Stacey and Isak may have consented - about what about Asta? Where was her say and voice? This would be a perfect book for book clubs - there is just so much to digest and breakdown. I feel it needs an indepth conversation, which in some ways makes review writing difficult without giving spoilers away.
**I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review**
I read a lot, but have to steal moments in my busy life to indulge and am often at the whim and limitation of time and exhaustion. But I just got lost in a book in a way that has not happened before. I got lost, but in it, I found myself. I found not just a story that captivated my imagination, but recognized the essence of being a Mother and a Daughter that resonated so fully in an emotional response at every level of my being that I was not quite prepared for; I found a landscape I know and love and am totally familiar with, yet discovered it again through another’s eyes, painted with adept strokes of beautifully crafted words; I found the birds and creatures of my home country, and their eclectic and colourful expression, brought to life fully through the language of a gifted writer who sees them as I do; I found the grotesque and the beautiful, cold confronting death and hopeful new life, the fear and the love, the very human condition of being here and now amongst the meanderings of my own thoughts; and I found the exquisite poetry of a language that strikes a chord in my creative soul and inspires me to rediscover my own language, to write more, write better, and celebrate every breath of this human journey.
I don’t think I have ever been so moved, so totally immersed in, overwhelmed by, and then re-emerged from, a book in all my life.
I love speculative fiction as a genre, I really do. I find it entrancing, and teetering on the precipice of the present reality is a marvellously enticing exercise. However, this book managed to keep itself just that bit too vague, and I lost the hopes that I had for more context. The ending was not what I had hoped, and there was just something missing in here.
The bond between mother and daughter is incredible, but I found our main character a little frustrating. There was so much to consider in here, and there are a lot of talking points in here. However, the vagueness works in the favour of the book in some respects- but also against it.
When it came to the end of the story, I needed something more. There was a substance lacking that I just could not get from this book as so much was left off. The mix of feminist fiction and climate change discourse was interesting, but I needed more from this book.
Great concept, poor execution. I had already read a similar book which was set in Tasmania recently (Ghost Species by James Bradley), and I had enjoyed that so was looking forward to this.
This book is slow, boring, and plodding. I keep waiting for something interesting to happen but nothing does. The motivations of all the characters are unexplored. The characters are also unrealistic. For example the 9yo sister who is excited about the new baby... never once does she waver in loving adoration of the baby, despite the fact the mum becomes a recluse and pretty much ignores her the rest of her family and only spends time with the baby.
The main character is awful. She is weak, self absorbed, lacks insight, and just lets life happen to her.
In the near future, a child is created using the DNA of three parents; mother Stacey, father Isaac, and a long deceased ancestor of mankind. This child will not be able to hold a passport, live a normal life, or even be issued with a birth certificate. She is Fauna.
Stacey and Isaac, a young Western Australian couple, prepare to embark upon the perilous journey into parenthood for the fourth time. They have agreed to partner up with LifeBlood, a clinical research company that offers financial incentives for parents to create and nurture a genetically modified child. Gene spliced with another species, the eventual children of these births will be forever monitored by LifeBlood, just as their parents will also be as the keepers of such living assets.
The invasive methods use to track the pregnancy, and after the birth, Asta’s developmental progress, are largely burdens borne by Stacey. It is Stacey’s life that incrementally becomes smaller every day, with the erosion of what she once was being apparently invisible to everyone else. Asta looks different, sounds different, walks different. Even taking Asta out the door is a massive exercise, lest someone notice these differences and wish to challenge Stacey as to what is ‘wrong’ with her youngest child.
Fauna increasingly reminds the reader of the work ‘Never Let me Go’ by Kazuo Ishiguro as the novel progresses. There is increasing reason to be alarmed and suspicious that Asta’s fate is to be harvested for spare parts, eventually fully sacrificed on the altar of scientific research. Truly the only person standing in the way of this awful fate is her long-suffering mother. The unfairness of this is not bludgeoned in Fauna, but the sacrifices the exhausted mother makes every day are absolutely heartbreaking to hear. Stacey’s very essence of being a functioning human being in the world is taken from her and there is no one in her world who truly understands the extent of it. It is difficult to find someone to root for in this novel, at least amongst the adults. Perhaps this is deliberate, so we focus on the innocent Asta who didn’t ask to born to two naive parents who were struggling to provide for the two perfectly healthy kids they already had. Hmm. Stacey and Isaac had previously experienced a miscarriage, and the couple are assured that this fourth child will be born stronger because of her altered genetic makeup. Still with the hmm.
Fauna was an extraordinarily moving story to listen to as an audio book. The longing and the fear of a mother who is essentially abandoned to make the hard decisions is beautifully realized by Sydney actor Harriet Gordon Anderson. This is one of those times where I believe the author’s intent was fully understood and given appropriate life by the audio narrator.
This dreamy novel of maternal love and erosion of self is set in an altered future that is scant on the details as to the why, yet vividly described for landscape and isolation. Fauna strips existence down to the two essentials, a mother and the love she has for her child. That the two will be separated is a dreadful certainty.
Fauna leaves a lot left unsaid, not for reasons of an eventual sequel I am sure but because the unspoken horrors, the almost unimaginable horrors, are those that humans are willing to inflict upon other humans.
Be warned. Fauna is not an easy read. It will probably disturb. It will definitely make you think. Why ? The subject matter. The mother's dilemma "how far would you go to save your daughter ?"
Fauna you see is set in the future, not that far out, less than twenty years. Thanks to a new genetics based company called Lifeblood Stacey is recruited to add to her family of two children and her loyal husband Isak. The deal, yes it's very much a deal, means that their challenging financial situation will be no more. The thing is that the child that Stacey will carry is not entirely human.
Fauna takes us through her pregnancy and what follows. Its very evident that Asta Mary, their new daughter is definitely different. Stacey doesn't really know how to deal with the voracious needs of her new born, and , because she looks different as well. So much so that she actively avoids connecting with her friends, and becomes house bound. Basically hiding away.
We share the family's journey as they move to a new place on the coast, a reward from Lifeblood. Each day seems to provide another challenge, and Stacey gradually withdraws from Isak, and her children Emma and Jake. Her world is totally consumed by Asta Mary. It's a fraught story and weird and scary. I did warn you.
After the loss of their third child, Stacey and Isak commit to a groundbreaking medical trial that will allow them to finally complete their family. The only catch? The child will be genetically engineered. Her cells will be Stacey and Isak’s, but also foreign chromosomes made up of the prehistoric matter that once walked the earth. No one at LifeBLOOD can tell them how different the child will be, they will all watch and learn as Asta grows. The facilitators are, annoyingly, very involved in the whole process. It’s hard to know where the family unit ends and they begin. They are involved in key decisions usually reserved for parents - when to wean, what to do with her first tooth, where to live, what to tell people about her condition, her diet. 🤯 The community around them are curious about the child, however Stacey is fiercely overprotective, preferring to shut herself off from the world rather than answer their difficult questions. Soon enough, subtle differences begin to emerge between Asta and her other children, but is she protecting Asta from them? Or protecting herself?
This was a really interesting read. The entire concept had me shook, and I had to keep checking with hubby if this was already happening in the world (No, but it’s like Jurassic Park, apparently 😆). The language and prose is beautiful, lyrical and filled with rich imagery of the landscape. I would have loved to see more detail around what exactly LifeBLOOD was expecting from them and their suggestions and notes. Stacey, however, for all her wanting to protect Asta, really liked to put her head in the sand when it came to the fine print or details!
I loved the portrayal of motherhood here. The notion of losing yourself while nurturing your child, taken to a whole new level with a child that’s genetically engineered to want different things than your average. In nourishing her child, Stacey almost becomes extinct herself. I loved her relationship with her own mother, and how she inadvertently ends up repeating her mother’s mistakes, and in the process becomes closer to her.
The book throws up some pretty great discussion points like what are the moral rights of a child when they’re not 100% human, but rather, classified as fauna? What part does Asta have to play in the future of humanity? Where does the experiment end and life begin? Or did Stacey sign up to a lifetime of tests, destined to tear their family apart instead of completing it? . A very thought provoking read. Thank you to @allenandunwin for my arc in exchange for this review.
An engaging, thought provoking story about the lengths a mother will go to in order to bring a child into the world, then keep her safe, loved and nurtured. I have to admit I was a little creeped out reading this, it's not something I would ever consider doing.
With thanks to Allen & Unwin for my copy to read and review.
4.5* I love reproductive themed speculative fiction. A scary and too real vision of the very near future. But essentially this book was about an intense and consuming bond between a mother and daughter. This bond overwhelmed everything else in the story, and the other characters, and i still can't decide if that made it a better or worse book.
This was interesting, but the story didn't really go anywhere. I wasn't a fan of the open ending. I would have rather had an epilogue or something at the end that even just sort of wrapped up the story.
This is such a strong, credible, story set several years into the future. I was held from the first to last page. Donna Mazza crafts a poignant story of motherhood and love shaped by a chilling new technology. Set within the familiar comfort of rural Australia, it is a powerful combination.
This novel will challenge you and make you think about what it means to be a mother. The concept is brilliant and as the story unfolds you become shocked when you realise what science is prepared to do.
Unfortunately I wasn’t a huge fan of this book. The plot had me thinking it was going to go one way when in fact it took me in the opposite direction and leaving me wanting more. The main character, Stacey, annoyed me to no end. Why did she want another child? What was she expecting would happen as the child grew up? Why did she go down this path? For the money? Who knows. Her selfishness towards her husband and other children irked me – it was all about her. I was expecting more around Asta herself, and although her development was documented, her interaction with the ‘outside’ world, as a child of ‘edited cells’, was never fully shown.
I received this book for free from ARC from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. If you've read my other reviews, you'll know that if it's bad, I'll say so, regardless of how I received the book.
The science caught my attention. The characters dragged me in.
Fauna by Donna Mazza is the first binge book I’ve read in a while. It was a last moment contender for the Book Flood but when your 92-year-old grandma chooses to sacrifice sleep to spend time with you, plans are forgotten, so I read it later in January. However, I need to thank Allen & Unwin for getting a copy to me in time for Christmas Eve.
So what’s Fauna? It’s a powerful story of motherhood and the sacrifices a family will make to have a child. It’s also a future-set science fiction. It’s only 17 years in the future in a day very like our current, and the science could very well exist but we don’t know about it. It’s actually so similar to our now that Emmy and Jake don’t realize their new little sister is genetically more Neanderthal than their sister.
The connection between Stacey and the child drew me in as the most powerful part of Fauna. I totally missed it being set a little in the future, possibly because we know questionable genetic experimenting has already produced babies. I acknowledge it should have been the science that did it. My disinterest in becoming a parent made me question some of Stacey and her husband’s motivations early on, because I, personally, only see science as the motivator to have a DNA spliced baby to genetically bring back a Neanderthal-hybrid. Stacey and Isak did it to have a third child they could otherwise afford. Stacey’s previously studying anthropology was named as a motivator but a very overlooked one. Again, that’s probably more me than the novel.
The second half was where I related mostly with Stacey. The baby was born; they bonded. The writing was real enough for me to feel Stacey’s frustrations and fears. I imagine it being little different from any family with any family with a child with a disability. People ask questions, they’re curious and also want to help. Except when your child looks that was from a genetic experiment and your life is being controlled by a corporation with profit intent, it’s easier to avoid those questions, but Stacey found out that has a different cost.
This is the first novel I’ve reviewed with such an Australian focus. I just checked, Fauna is being released through Australia on February 4, and in the US Amazon Kindle store on the same day.
I may need time to put my thoughts into coherent sentences as it’s late. *edit* here's my review.
OK. This book is such a difficult one to review. On one hand, I love books that talk about motherhood in frank and vulnerable ways, and this book did that well. However, I have too many grievances with the book as a whole for that element to make up for the parts in which it lacked.
Firstly, this is such an interesting and promising concept to write about and I commend the author for taking it in her stride. Being based in Australia made for another element of enjoyment for me. There were many descriptive passages about Australian bird-life (fauna), landscape and flora. But it all just felt a bit lost.
I really wish there had been stronger character development – the first section of the book (the protagonists pregnancy) felt like a completely different writing style to the latter half of the book. At first it felt plot driven and I assumed we didn't need much character development due to wherever the story was headed... but unfortunately it didn't really go very far. Was I reading a thriller? A sci-fi? A family drama? The latter felt more descriptive and lyrical (as mentioned above) which proves the writer can put together a beautiful story... but I don't think this book demonstrates her ability very well.
To sum it up – this is a family drama, which at first follows the protagonists (sci-fi/unlikely) IVF experience, and then the life of the family once that baby is born. My major grievances were with the plot, the lack of character development, and the length. It could have been much more enjoyable at half the size (emphasising the writers strengths).
I'll definitely read Mazza's next book, because I can see how well she can write, but this was a miss for me.
Also - I reeeeally hate writing negative reviews. People that write books are incredible and I take my hat off to everyone who has accomplished that.
**Anyone who is after a great sci-fi/dystopian book about pregnancy/motherhood and or IVF - read XX by Angela Chadwick.
"The womb is such a silent, private place and having a camera—an audience—pointed at this baby so it can't even grow into being without scrutiny seems like the ultimate invasion. Fauna is another book about controlling women's reproductive capacities, in the same vein as Margaret Atwood's seminal text: The Handmaid's Tale, though not quite as compelling.
"The ordeal of giving life is always a journey of fire. Some stories might be shorter or involve less horror but there is suffering even in the mildest of experiences." This novel posits some interesting questions as it traces the journey of Stacey, who is recruited by a genetics company called LifeBLOOD® to bear, nurture and raise a baby who is at the same time both biologically "hers" and other; as its cells have been combined with Neanderthal DNA. Through the course of the pregnancy, Stacey finds the LifeBLOOD® processes (including inserting a camera into her uterus) more and more intrusive.
"He told me I'd make a great mother because I knew what it was to have one that was shit." Where Fauna falls down is in the characters. While obviously a woman under extreme pressure, I found Stacey basically unlikable, and not motivated by things I particularly related to. The remaining family members—a drippy husband and two older children—are poorly developed, so you basically get a bubble containing the annoying Stacey and her non-verbal Neanderthal kid.
Stacey hates the idea of people mistaking the child as a person with disability, LifeBLOOD®'s suggested tactic for keeping their proprietorial information secret while still socialising the kid. It's an idea that buys into stigma, and means the child is raised in isolation because of Stacey's feelings—hardly the nurturing mothering you'd hope to make up for the fact that Stacey already signed the child's reproductive capacity away before she was even born. While I liked the premise, the realisation of it fell short.