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Being Hardcover – February 1, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up—A lonely teen, Robert Smith finds himself involved in events totally out of his control. A foster kid with a stomachache, he arrives at the hospital alone for a routine endoscopy. Not fully anesthetized, he hears the doctors claim that his insides aren't human. Unidentified men with guns swarm in, Robert bolts, and finds himself on the front page of the newspaper accused of stabbing one of the doctors. His subsequent flight begins a grisly string of events where murder, alcohol, and fear abound. Conveniently the one person Robert runs to, Eddi, the ex-girl of an acquaintance's brother, not only takes him in but is an expert in creating fake IDs. With a duffle full of cash from her business, they escape England to her house in Spain. In Tejeda, the young people find love and begin a "normal" life together until the men in suits show up and destroy it all. Scattered throughout the novel are Robert's existential questions, "How do I know anything is real?" This is surreal science fiction with a dismal ending. Loose ends abound, so many that readers are left feeling cheated. Who or what Robert is are never made clear; nor is the identity of the men who are after him.—Kathy Lehman, Thomas Dale High School Library, Chester, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

HB
During a routine endoscopy, a doctor finds something inside Robert that makes no sense -- metal filaments, pipes, and wires, all hidden under a casing designed to fool such mundane exams. Escaping the sinister men who order a doctor to "cut that thing open," Robert teams up with Eddi, a charismatic thief with her own agenda. Being operates at top speed, at once a conventional chase adventure, a psychological thriller, and a romance. While the duo alternately hides and flees, Robert struggles to come to terms with his apparent inhumanity; and as his relationship with Eddi evolves from distrust to companionship (an element of sweetness that lightens an otherwise bleak tale), he uses it to convince himself that he's just like everyone else: "I looked like a human. I thought and felt like a human. Did it matter that I wasn't a human?" Poetic descriptions of Robert's mysterious hardware are terrifying and beautiful -- within him resides "a subatomic dome, a dark cathedral, a perfect abomination" -- and shade the book with a tense self-loathing. More than his pursuers, Robert is running from himself. A lifelong foster kid, both his street smarts and vague past are entirely believable, making his disorientation that much more powerful. Brooks takes the fantasy of being special -- Robert is uniquely strong and possessed of a singular, if shrouded, heritage -- and mines its dark side with grit, compassion, and intrigue. CLAIRE E. GROSS

Kirkus
During a routine exam, 16-year-old Robert Smith feels the scalpel's slice and helplessly views
metal and plastic parts inside his stomach wall. Who, or what, is he? Like a character from Robin
Cook's medical thrillers, the teen breaks out of anesthesia, throws down with the bad guys and
executes a daring escape. Trusting nobody, Robert decides to hide out with Eddi, a former
acquaintance. His protector is a 19-year-old master criminal running her own fake ID business. Here
the story grinds to a glacial pace and the author turns his suspense story into a character-driven work.
Over 200 pages feature Robert droning on about his current dilemma, mysterious background and
destiny. Eddi and Robert have roles more like cloak-and-dagger spies than frightened teens, and
conflicts are easily solved. The story limps along until the final 18 explosive pages. After being teased
by early suggestions of an action story, readers may be satisfied by the gruesome ending. However,
it's more likely that once the opening premise fades, teens will give up on this title. (Fiction. YA)
. . .

PW Starred
Brooks's (The Road of the Dead) latest novel wraps high-speed, adrenaline-laced adventure around a thought-provoking exploration of the very nature of identity and existence. A routine endoscopy goes terribly wrong for 16-year-old Robert when the camera discovers that the boy's belly is filled with a network of mysterious, inhuman machinery. Rousing himself from deep anesthetization, Robert calls on hitherto untapped inner powers to escape from a steely-eyed and sinister man called Ryan and others who seem to have been called in from a covert government agency. Robert finds himself accused of murder and, in desperation, lands on the doorstep of Eddi Ray, a young woman who specializes in producing thoroughly documented false identities. Soon Robert and Eddi flee the English chill and gloom (so vividly evoked by Brooks that the icy drizzle is nearly palpable) for a new life-and eventually romance-in sunny southern Spain. A tantalizingly open-ended conclusion invites speculation long after the book's finish. Though readers who have patiently waited for the answer to whether Robert is "robot, automaton, android, cyborg, beast, machine, [or] alien" may initially be frustrated, they will likely be satisfied by an ending that feels true to his character. Expect a wild ride from this
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 610L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Chicken House (February 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439899737
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439899734
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,018,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mark Louis Baumgart on August 10, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
After reading "Road Of The Dead" I immediately picked up his next novel "Being". The best advertisement for an author's books is quality. Write a good book, and people will want to go and pick up your next one.

While I like a good hardboiled crime novel, and while "The Road Of The Dead" was a very good one, the whole astral projection thing was way overdone. Here, in "Being", the "super"natural element is the whole point, and is so much more organic to the plot, and it works. Yeah, it really does.

Sixteen-year-old foster kid Robert Smith goes to the hospital for some routine tests for a possible ulcer. He's put under for the tests by the anesthesiologist, only to be constantly woke up by a "something" inside of him. As he wakes, he hears snatches of conversations in which he learns that there is someTHING inside of him, and someone (David Ryan) wants it cut out of him regardless of the cost to Smith. He breaks out, taking anesthesiologist Kamel Ramachandran as a hostage. Robert decides to go to Sainsbury's railway station, where he lets Kamel go and takes a train to anywhere, and uses a credit card he had lifted from Ryan to book a hotel room. It's here that he watches a videotape that he had also lifted from Ryan, which shows exactly what's inside of him, and it ain't pretty. And it ain't human either, and as Robert has found out, it can communicate with him, and it can heal him with remarkable speed. Robert is also becoming SOMETHING else, and Robert's current circumstances are making him violent and dishonest, and he doesn't like that either.

Then Ryan tracks him down, and in escaping he realizes that he has to find a place to hide after finding out that Ryan has had Kamel and the surgeon killed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Opal on June 19, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is not a book for people who like neat and tidy happy endings and all their questions answered - it's a gritty and often scary read, raising existential questions in a context very approachable by adolescents. Who or what is this boy? Who is hunting him and why? Is there anywhere left to hide in the world now? Make up your own mind - just as every human has to make up their own mind on who and what they will be (not that most of us have plastic insides to confuse things!).

Definitely worth reading, and stayed with me long afterwards.
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Format: Hardcover
Sixteen-year-old Robert Smith thinks he has grown up just like every other teenager in Essex, England. Sure, he can't remember much of his childhood. Memories about his birth parents feel manufactured. Hopping around from foster home to foster home through the years, he doesn't recall ever getting sick or seriously injured. All he has are his dreams, and those bad dreams feel real enough.

Dr. Andrews tells Robert that his surgery will be a routine endoscopy, which will check for a stomach ulcer. Everything is going as planned --- IVs, anesthesia, gurneys, doctors, scalpels --- until the anesthesia stops working and Robert wakes up. Doctors are calling for more doctors. Men with holstered pistols stand guard around the room. The confusion increases as the doctors try to figure out what they're seeing. "What the hell are you?" one of them asks. That single line sets Robert off. He has to get out of there. Whatever he does, he must escape.

Stolen cars, guns, fraudulent news stories, murders, kidnapping, fake IDs and secret societies --- the intense chain of events that follows will have readers grasping for answers right along with Robert. Who are these mysterious men in the hospital? What are they looking for? Everyone wants something, especially men packing guns in an operating room. Who are they working for? Who, or what, do they think Robert is?

This is one of those crucial questions --- "Who am I?" If Robert doesn't know who he is, then he doesn't really have much of anything. No beginning. No end. What does it mean if he can't trust what's inside his body? Doctors don't know what's wrong with him. People whom he knows nothing about are trying to kill him. The situation forces him to question all he has ever known and experienced.
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Format: Hardcover
Robert Smith was waiting for the nurse to call him into the doctor's office to prepare him for his scheduled endoscopy, not realizing it would be the last normal day in his life. Once called into the office, Robert was put under anesthetic and doctors went about putting a tube down his throat in order to find out what was causing his stomach discomfort. Unexpectedly, Robert woke up before he was supposed to and realized he was in a different room with many people he didn't recognize. He heard phrases like, "What is that?" and "Are those wires?" Robert felt every cut made into his body for the exploratory surgery these strange people in black suits were performing on him.

After Robert forced himself off the table, he managed to get a weapon out of the hand of one of the black suits. At gun point, Robert demanded the anesthetist knock out his attackers and then kidnapped him in order to use his car to get away. Next, he set about making himself invisible. He knew he couldn't go to his house where his foster parents lived or any place he'd normally visit. The first night he checked into a hotel for some rest to give himself some time to decide what to do the next day. He was overwhelmed with thoughts about what was inside him. He looked over the evidence he took from the doctor's office, which included a videotape of the endoscopy. On the tape he saw things that should have been impossible.

After a sleepless night, Robert put the first step of his plan in motion. To become a different person, change identities, disappear from the face of the Earth. He went to see a girl named Eddi who was in the business of fake IDs, birth certificates, and other needed credentials to get by in life. What he found when he got to her place was suspicion and uncertainty.
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