The Family Experiment

Book Review

The Family Experiment by John Marrs
Thriller | Science Fiction | Dystopia

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If you’re picking up The Family Experiment by John Marrs, be sure to set aside an entire day for reading. Because once you start this dark and twisty dystopian thriller, you won’t be able to put it down!

The Family Experiment is the latest novel by Marrs, set in the same universe as his previous books, The One and The Marriage Act. In The Family Experiment, the world’s population is soaring, the economy is in crisis, and cities are overcrowded. Many people can no longer afford to start a family, let alone raise them.

But there’s a solution. For a monthly fee, couples can create a virtual child from scratch and raise them in the metaverse via a VR headset. To launch this new program, a company for Virtual Children has created a reality TV show featuring ten different couples. Over a nine month period, each couple will raise a virtual baby into adulthood. And at the end, one winning couple gets to choose between keeping their virtual baby or taking the prize money to start a real-world family of their own.

Having never read any of John Marrs’ books before, I had no idea of the wild ride I was in for in this novel. After finishing the book in a single sitting, I looked up from my e-reader and said, “WHAT did I just read?” It was a thought-provoking, brain-sizzling story and I couldn’t wait to read more of this author’s work.

The book is extremely fast-paced with short but mesmerizing chapters. The downside to this is that for the first 20% of the book I found it considerably difficult to keep track of the numerous characters involved. (Grab a pen and journal, you’re going to need a mind map to start!) But after a bit of flipping back and forth, I soon figured out who was who and settled in for a dramatic, non-stop, read.

Each of the contestants in the reality TV series have their own set of secrets and Marrs takes us from one jaw-dropping scene to another. While the book is dystopian / speculative fiction, it’s also something that feels entirely plausible with the rise of AI and virtual reality. The book feels fresh, unique, and completely immersive, and forces us to think critically about the role, dangers, and uses of technology like this in society.

Although this is part of the same universe of Marrs’ previous novels, it can be read as a standalone. (There are some Easter Eggs for those who’ve read his other books.) After finishing The Family Experiment, I immediately put Marrs’ book, The One on hold and quickly devoured it as well — and that is absolutely a testament to how much I enjoyed this read.

All in all, The Family Experiment is a really dark and intelligent read that is sure to leave you thinking! Whether you love science fiction, dystopian thrillers, or just a really solid, twisty read, this book is definitely one to add to your TBR shelf this summer!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Recommended for:

Readers looking for fast-paced and twisty speculative fiction

This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Advance e-copy of the book provided courtesy of the publisher, Harlequin Trade Publishing, and Netgalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

About the book:

(From the publisher) From the acclaimed author of The One and The Marriage Act, The Family Experiment is a dark and brilliant speculative thriller about families: real and virtual.

Some families are virtually perfect…

The world’s population is soaring, creating overcrowded cities and an economic crisis. And in the UK, the breaking point has arrived. A growing number of people can no longer afford to start families, let alone raise them.

But for those desperate to experience parenthood, there is an alternative. For a monthly subscription fee, clients can create a virtual child from scratch who they can access via the metaverse and a VR headset. To launch this new initiative, the company behind Virtual Children has created a reality TV show called The Substitute. It will follow ten couples as they raise a Virtual Child from birth to the age of eighteen but in a condensed nine-month time period. The prize: the right to keep their virtual child, or risk it all for the chance of a real baby…

Set in the same universe as John Marrs’s bestselling novel The One and The Marriage Act, The Family Experiment is a dark and twisted thriller about the ultimate Tamagotchi—a virtual baby.

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