In 2023 America—bankrupt, violently divided by the culture wars, and beholden to archrival China—the rules of the game are complicated. With the danger mounting, the dead bodies of young women piling up, Chinese agents circling, and the US Department of National Competitiveness moving in to quash his investigation, Azadian’s only option is to go rogue, assemble a team of brilliant misfits like himself, and begin the fight of his life to find out who is killing these women and why, and if any others like them may still be alive.
I loved the start of this novel a whole lot, enough that half way through I had already decided to give it a high rating. The first half is very strong. But the last act is a tad of a let down. Rich Azadian is a reporter with commitment issues and a tragic past. In fact, his past is part of the reason he obsesses with the dead girl, wanting to find out what happened to her. His sister was killed years before, and he hasn't really dealt the senselessness of it all.
When MaryLee Stock dies, he goes through great lengths to find out if it was murder. I was on board with him and Joseph, his Indian assistant, as they, little by little, piece together who and what was involved. His suspicion lead him to politicians, the government, radicals, and religious leaders. It was all very intriguing.
The writing itself was a charm. The author did not waste any words. The story goes from one scene to another, one great plot point to another, one day to another. No dull moments. The MC questioned the same things I did, and he got the questions or figured it out around the same time I did. The writer takes you on a fun journey while at the same time not letting you get restless or anxious about where the plot is going.
The main character was interesting in that he not only questioned his job, the loss of his sister, and MaryLee, he also questioned life. He wanted more out of it. I could understand why he didn't want to commit to anyone. He didn't understand himself enough to want to pretend he understood someone else, and so when his ex walks back into his life--he needs her to solve the puzzle--his hesitation made perfect sense to me. Even the conclusion at the end of the story made sense because by that time a lot had happened to him and all the characters involved. I did not have a problem with Rich. But I did have major issues with everyone else in his life.
All the secondary characters were too eager to please Rich. They all sacrificed a lot and risked even more to help him figure out a puzzle that at first didn't make much sense. I could understand why his girlfriend, who still had feelings for him, would go along with it all, but the other helpers, including his editor and the detective on the job, who were supposed to have strong personalities, were all quickly swayed by Rich. They at times seemed like plot devices. The tough but helpful editor at his newspaper, the tough but more than willing to hear him out detective, the tech guy, the scientist...everyone had a profession and a role that the story ultimately needed for all of it to come together at the end. There is more to this, but I don't want to reveal too much. No spoilers here.
Now, the dreaded last act. My problem with it was that I started figuring out the main plot a lot faster than Rich, and everything worked out perfectly and exactly how Rich needed it to. No casualties. No consequences. They all lived happily ever after. The good guy won. I don't have a problem with this thought process, but in this story it all worked out too well. Every one believed Rich and took his advice on almost everything. Everyone ended up yielding. The high stakes didn't seem so high once it was all nicely wrapped up in a fantastical bow.
However, the one part that I did like about the ending was how this near future exposes the world to how genetic engineering can be used for terrible things that lead to devastating results. How science and religion can be both helpful and destructive. How trying to get ahead could lead everyone back. I loved the world of Genesis Code. It was a very realistic place, not too different from the near future we might all have. The science is compelling. The ideas inventive. The plot was fun. And so I still recommend it because of all the good.