Review by John for The Games by Ted Kosmatka.
John’s quick take: A frightening tale of what could happen if genetic engineering is allowed to race ahead unchecked in an amoral world.
John’s description: In the not-too-distant future, genetically engineered creatures fight to the death in the highly prestigious showcase event of the Olympic Games. Many countries are desperate to win the event and they pour money and scientific expertise into the development of vicious gladiatorial animals. The one and only governing rule is that the creatures must not contain any human DNA.
Silas Williams is a brilliant geneticist in charge of the U.S. program and he has a track record of success, having helped win the events in the previous Games. But there is a fear that other countries may be catching up and consequently Silas’ boss turns to a computing genius and his experimental supercomputer to design the genetic code for an unbeatable gladiator. It is then the job of Silas and his team to create, nurture and train the killing machine whose design has been entirely computer generated.
They succeed in creating and bringing to life the creature, but even with his vast knowledge and expertise Silas has no understanding of what he has created. From the genes to the blood to the body structure, the gladiatorial beast is full of features whose purpose and function are unknown and unknowable.
As the gladiator rapidly grows and exhibits frightening powers, Silas is increasingly filled with dread. What has the cold hard logic of a computer caused him to bring to life?
John’s thoughts: This is a clever plot and a well-told story. There are some very cool ideas in it and Kosmatka handles the technical side of the story really well. Is it believable? Well, no – but who said that science fiction had to be believable in order to be good. It drew me in and I blew through the read in no time.
I particularly liked the notion of the virtual reality supercomputer and the relationship between it and its creator. It was also interesting to see what might happen when such a computer was given free rein to design and create the genetic code for a gladiatorial creature whose only specific objective was to survive the Games.
I did find that there were a few times that elements of the story were a bit of a stretch and I wasn’t crazy about how it all ends - it turned into too much of an action novel. Overall I’d say the book is really strong on ideas and not quite so strong on details and character development. It will appeal to anyone who likes to read about potential developments in genetic engineering and likes action-oriented science fiction. I’d rate this book 3.5 stars.
Hardcover | 360 pages | Del Rey | January 1st 2012