Jason Pettus's Reviews > Exogene

Exogene by T.C. McCarthy
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Feb 14, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: contemporary, sci-fi, dark, smart-nerdy
Read from February 14 to May 29, 2012

(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

This is volume two of a new trilogy by T.C. McCarthy, detailing a day-after-tomorrow war in central Asia from the viewpoint of three very different types of combatants; but unfortunately, while the first book Germline made CCLaP's best-of lists last year and in general just really blew me away, I found myself much less captivated by this newest chapter. And that's because, I've come to realize, what I really loved the most about part one was the unique kind of narrative that came with dropping a drug-addicted gonzo journalist into the middle of a Vietnam-like bloody quagmire within the former Soviet states over the world's diminishing supplies of "trace metals" (almost useless except in the manufacture of cellphones and other mobile tech, and thus suddenly one of the most important resources on the planet in a world just around the corner from us); but with part two narrated by one of the genetically engineered teenage-girl super-soldiers bred specifically for wars like these, I found the missing element of flawed, decaying humanity to result in simply a less compelling manuscript, and now no longer offset by McCarthy's pleasingly shocking vision of near-future warfare (including micro-bullets that need no gunpowder, spacesuit armor with its own atmosphere, all troop movement conducted via thousands of miles of underground tunnels, and more), thought-provoking surprises in part one but old-hat by now. Granted, this is perhaps an unfair assessment, because Germline was just so freaking badass that its sequel was maybe fated to be disappointing no matter what -- and I'll absolutely be reading volume three of the trilogy as well when it comes out, Chimera in 2013 -- but unfortunately Exogene is a step down into mere "good" level from a debut that was almost perfect, and so will simply suffer in direct comparison. It should be kept in mind when reading it yourself.

Out of 10: 8.2
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Jeffrey I did not read the first book, but I thought the Blade Runnerish elements of this book were well thought out, and all of the new issues about fighting were great. Not having had the pleasures of Germline, I could not compare but the book was very well done.


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