Book Review: The Genome by Sergei Lukyanenko
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Open Road Media
Wendy’s Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
I enjoyed Lukyanenko’s Night Watch, so I was quick to grab this one. I like when authors diversify their offerings. With Lukyanenko, he’s smoothly transitioned from an urban supernatural story in Night Watch, to hardcore science fiction.
Don’t let me scare you with the term “hardcore,” if you are wary of scifi. I don’t often read the genre, but I could easily get into the intricacies of Lukyanenko’s futuristic world where humans have spread far beyond Earth. Humanity has also expanded far into the field of genetic manipulation, right from the embryo.
Alex Romanov is a pilot-spesh. That is, upon metamorphosis, physical changes to his body allow him to easily compensate for gravity and inertia, while his mind has been altered to allow for integrity, honesty, and the utmost loyalty of his crew. He also is unable to love — which proves problematic when he helps a youg fighter spesh through her transformation and discovers there’s more to her than there seems.
When Alex takes a job with a mysterious company and must pull together an unusual crew, things really get interesting as Lukyanenko explores their various specializations (or lack thereof), their backgrounds, and their interactions with each other. All of which will truly be tested when they take on their first mission — transporting a clone and his alien charges.
Before I go on, I want to shower some praise on Lukyanenko for not only writing interesting female characters, but for actually dealing with their sex and sexuality — from breastfeeding to menstruation — in completely natural ways within the story. It’s almost as if these things are *gasp* normal.
I am, however, disappointed in the way he, like many other authors I’ve read, tends to focus on racial differences. I appreciate the diversity of the cast of characters, but I find it so annoying to have the black woman constantly described as “the black woman” when there is no contextual reason for it. How often do you read “the white man picked up his sword,” yet “said the black woman” is a constant thing. I suppose I should be blessed that Lukyanenko doesn’t go through the thesaurus of colours that George R.R. Martin does when he’s busy describing the “exotic” folks who are so obviously not white.
Anyway, Lukyanenko introduces an intriguing cast and a few interesting plot devices that promises an exciting second half.
But instead, the book suddenly becomes this strange Sherlock Holmes murder mystery, complete with a Sherlock Holmes clone and a Watson to solve it. The change is so abrupt and disappointing, that, what promised to be a great read, suddenly left a strange taste in my mouth as Alex tries to piece together the mystery and protect his crew before the detective does. Only, despite the story being told from Alex’s point of view, the reader isn’t allowed into his thought processes anymore, as he leaps from conclusion to conclusion, none of which make sense.
Everyone on board his ship has motive, and, based on the great character and political issues introduced at the start, I had such high hopes for where things were going to go. But the switch in tone is jarring and the detective work is just plain silly.
Still, I liked the beginning of the book well enough to recommend that much!