I started reading Germline about 12.30 this afternoon, intending to read for a little and have a nap. Now it’s just gone 5pm and I may be a little bleary eyed after no sleep but I just finished the book and then had to take a little time to reflect on it before I wrote the review.
Germline is not an easy read, it has all too realistic scenes of death, insanity and desperation in war, the main character is about the most self-indulgent mess of an anti-hero you could find and even though it’s set in the future, the war is ultimately about who has the most strength to claim what dwindling mineral resources are left, something I can envision all too clearly in our reality.
Having said all that, the book was absolutely amazing. The clarity of writing and scene descriptions were brilliant and I was able to clearly envision what was going on, even if I didn’t want to. I had to keep turning the pages to find out what happened next, no matter the outcome and there were more than a few times when I had to take a brief break, just to absorb or pull back from what I’d just read.
I thought the technology T. C. McCarthy created was superb, fit the setting well and it impressed me how easy it was to understand without being led into lengthy jargon on how and why. From the weaponry, to the armour, even the genetic soldiers all provided everything I needed for a well rounded science fiction novel.
As the book was written in first person perspective, I think it provided a unique look at what was going on in Oscar Wendell’s head. Starting as a drug-addicted and failing journalist, he had one last chance of redeeming himself with his employers by securing the chance to write an article from the frontlines of the subterrene war in Kazakhstan. Seeing the war happen from his civilian perspective gave greater impact to what it was really like, the conditions they endure and the edge of sanity they have to dance to get through another night. The choices he made throughout were both insane yet believable.
I really wanted to hate him. At first it felt like there was nothing redeeming about him whatsoever, but McCarthy wrote him so cleverly that as he woke up to the reality around him and grew up without wanting to, he sneaked into my mind and a little into my heart.
There was quite a large cast of supporting characters, and a few of the individuals that Oscar meets had quite a major impact on me. The sheer amount of emotion that the author managed to convey along with these characters, some of them only for a short time was astounding and a testament to a brilliant and empathic writing style. I have to mention the Brit and the Kid. I loved both their characters and the fact you never learned their names.
The ending was actually a real surprise for me, I honestly didn’t expect it and I can only give huge props to T. C. McCarthy for making me believe there could be only one outcome for Oscar.
My only negative is that the title of the book and the consequent definition on the back cover aren’t actually used in the book that I recall, and perhaps it wasn’t needed as you now knew what it meant. Due to the definition though, I was expecting something a little different but I was in no way disappointed with what I got.
The pace of the book was fast and unrelenting, leading to me not being able to put it down unless I had to. The plot was both original and interesting and actually very hard to describe so all I can say is read Germline. Then get back to me 😉
A gripping close up of a futuristic war in all it’s gritty, brutal, dark and horrific glory.