by Scott Sigler
This was one of those books that had a lot of potential that the author just didn’t reach into. I think that he could have done more character development, which could have made this a really good character driven novel. In some ways, the book feels like that is what it wanted to be, but it never really lets the characters change as the plot moves along. Big things are happening and I don’t think the characters were dynamic in their responses to these events. When a character does change their view or emotional stance it feels like it is a plot convenience and not something organic to the character. It could have delved more into the conflict between the special group put together to take apart this project and the people leading it. There was a huge potential for political intrigue that just didn’t happen.
I have mixed feeling about the characters. In some ways they feel like stereotypes. In others, they have some fun quirks. But overall, they are pretty predictable. I see that a common complaint about the characters is that they don’t speak like they are super intelligent people. But here’s the thing: most high IQ people talk just like us not high IQ people. I have worked with people who are experts in their field and have extremely high IQs and they sound just like everyone else. So, that was something that I liked about the characters. I had a really difficult time with Jian. There were things about the portrayal of her mental illness that just bugged the shit out of me. People don’t unconsciously attempt suicide. We are biologically programmed to survive and it takes a significant effort to override that biological directive. Much about her character felt like it was more about moving the plot then letting the character come to life. And I don’t think this character was realistic in the way that her mental illness was portrayed. Another book that adds to the stigma that people with mental illness are all going to cause the people around them harm in some fashion or another. Clayton was the best character in the book. He came to life in a way that the other characters didn’t. He was fun and dynamic. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that the characters in this book were terrible. They weren’t. The big thing here is that I was expecting more from this author. Having recently read Infection, I had expected the characters of this book to be as complex and interesting as the ones in Infection.
The plot could have done more. There were a lot of threads that were just left dangling. Jian had taken some of her eggs and did what with them? There seemed no point to that scene. I think it was an interesting idea and could have been used to add another layer of complexity to both the character and the plot, but he didn’t go there. The president puts together a complex task force that really doesn’t play much of a role in the book.
I listened to this as an audiobook. Big surprise, right? Scott Sigler read it himself. It is not as amazing as Infection was, but it was still a really well presented audiobook. Sigler has a voice that is easy to listen to. He gives each character their own voice without making it too much. The writing style is easy to follow and reads well. The language is simple and direct. I like books that are like this; where the focus is on the story and not trying to impress me with your ability to weave words.
I liked that the focus of the book was not on the creatures. There are a ton of those books out there. I was glad that Sigler tried doing something different. The approach was to look more at the people and politics involved with the creation of these creatures and not the creatures themselves. Yes, they make an appearance, but they aren’t the central piece of the book. Additionally, Sigler works a lot with the emotion of dread. That means that he lets you imagine where things are going and often lets you see where they are headed so that you dread it coming. But in order for that to work, whatever is being dreaded needs to be delayed in arriving or it doesn’t elicit the emotion. The dread was there even though it wasn’t as intense in this book as it was in Infection.