Thursday, July 14, 2011

Eutopia by David Nickel

Please note that while this review doesn't include any big, end-of-novel spoilers, it does include a bit more plot detail than the publisher's blurb. Proceed with caution.

Eutopia by David Nickel

Subtitled "a novel of terrible optimism," Eutopia is a genre-bending novel with a title that promises a terrific blend of eugenics and utopia.1

Set in 1911, Eutopia follows two outsiders navigating the remote mill town of Eliada, Idaho.

Andrew Waggoner is the junior physician at the Eliada Hospital. While his credentials are impeccable, he's a Negro and his presence is tolerated only because it is mandated by the town's patron.

17-year-old Jason Thistledown has miraculously survived a plague that killed the entire population of Cracked Wheel when his long-lost aunt arrives in the area as part of her census for the Eugenics Records Office. Untethered Justin agrees to accompany his aunt on to Eliada, where she has an appointment with a colleague.

Eutopia was not at all what I expected and I have to say that I didn't like it. I expected a story where the villains were overzealous proponents of eugenics. There were those, but the story also included a paranormal element that I just could not appreciate.

I enjoyed the beginning of the book and was intrigued by where I thought the author was taking the plot, but when it became apparent that the mysterious Mr. Juke was a faerie/monster rather than someone locked away for study because of his intriguing (to the eugenicist doctor) deformities, I lost interest. I did finish the entire book, but only because I had Eutopia slated for review.

I know there are readers out there who will love Eutopia, but I'm not one of them. The novel definitely leads more toward horror, so if you like horror (fantastic rather than realistic)2 with a historical bent, you want want to give Eutopia a try.
  1. For those of you unfamiliar with eugenics, it is a science (popular in the early 20th century) focused on bettering the human race (usually through the culling of undesirable elements; forced sterilization programs and the like). Here's a page with lots of information.
  2. I don't usually read horror so I have no idea if those are the right adjectives to use. What I'm trying to get at is human "monster"(s) versus supernatural monsters.
disclosure: I received a review copy of Eutopia from ChiZine via NetGalley.


  1. Sorry you didn't like it. The premise sounds intriguing, but I think the cover could have been much better considering the what the story's about. I'm kind of interested to see for myself if I would like it. Thanks for the review!

  2. What he came up with is interesting, but I just could not appreciate it at all given that what I expected (and wanted) from the novel was something quite different.

  3. Oh, I was really interested in this book until you mentioned the paranoramal thing :/

  4. I picked it up for review for the eugenics slant too but I'm also more than happy with a supernatural element. I often don't find horror books scary (they're too obvious) but there was something about this that gave me the creeps. Which means it's done its job. I did think there were maybe a few too many ideas crammed into it.

    I have an interview with David Nickle on my blog if anyone's interested.