Thursday, April 05, 2012

Book Review – Exogene by T C McCarthy

Subterrene War Series Book Two
T. C. McCarthy
Orbit Books
Publication Date: March 1, 2012
Mass Market Paperback
400 pages
ISBN-13: 9780316128155
Cover Art by Steve Stone



     Talk about alternative life styles? Single, white, female, lesbian, military, genetically-enhanced, life expectancy 18 years. Yes, you read that right, that’s the social status of the main characters in T. C. McCarthy’s Exogene, the second book in the Subterrene War series. Following Germline (see my review here), the first book in the series, we enter back into an alternate universe that is running low on natural resources and ravaged by conflict. Rare and precious metals are so expensive, so integral to technology, and so isolated by location that they are worth going to war over. However, rather than seen through the eyes of a civilian, as in Germline, we track the exploits of the genetically-enhanced female soldiers that are, in essence, disposable. Programmed to “spoil” at the tender age of eighteen these soldiers are lethal killing machines but the government does not want them walking around free after they’ve out-lived their usefulness. The answer? Get rid of them after two years of service by programming them to “self-destruct” or “spoil” starting on their eighteenth birthday.

    McCarthy’s main character in Exogene is Catherine, one of the genetically-engineered 18-year-old killing machines. While she’s an effective soldier and dreams of dying to reach paradise and meet God she’s having doubts about spending the rest of her life as a soldier and giving herself up at the end of her service. Catherine has heard rumblings that a sanctuary for over-aged soldiers can be found in Thailand and she’ll do almost anything to get there.

    It’s not often that Science Fiction represents strong (read kick-ass) women as main characters but T.C. McCarthy does that and more. The subtleness of being a soldier and a woman is captured beautifully but to do so in the midst of a long-running war even more so. While some may consider this series military science fiction I think it falls more into the realm of social science fiction. Are genetically-engineered beings truly human? What might they do to be “considered” equal? What are the future implications of tampering with genetic material? McCarthy displays great skill in imagining a world history that, given the right circumstance, could very well come to be. Assuming the voice of his characters McCarthy comments on what it means to be human and the means those considered “less than” might attempt to attain equality. Tucked unobtrusively into a science fiction novel is a vast commentary on our future. Genetic manipulation, forced euthanasia, social inequality, and the human condition all play their parts in this story which McCarthy handles with his usual, seemingly effortless approach.

    The third book in the series, Chimera, is due out later this summer. I can’t wait to see how he wraps up the series.

    Recommended if you like anything by Joe Haldeman, David Gunn’s Death Head series, or Robert Buettner’s Jason Wander series or if you’re a fan of military science fiction, social science fiction, future warfare, quests, technological advances, genetic manipulation, resource depletion, or solid, creative, thought-provoking fiction.

4 out of 5 Stars

The Alternative
Southeast Wisconsin

Additional Reading:

T.C. McCarthy Author Page

Exogene Page

Exogene Page

Exogene Cover Page

Subterrene War Series
1. Germline (2011)
2. Exogene (2012)
3. Chimera (2012)

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