Published by Orbit in March of 2012
I approach this review with some trepidation. This is a hell of a science fiction novel but to call it a sci-fi novel is to undersell it. It is a hell of a war novel, but to call it a war novel is also underselling it. It really is the story of a woman finding out what it is to love, to be loved and to know where one stands with God - in short, to be human, but that seriously undersells this book and makes a violent tale of war, genetic mutation and out-of-controls science sound like some piece of warm and fuzzy chick lit. Exogene is certainly not that.
So, what is Exogene?
First things first - Exogene is the second book in a series by T.C. McCarthy. Read the first book, Germline, for the background necessary for this book. Germline (see my review by clicking here) explores a future war for trace metals in Kazakhstan between the Russians and the Americans. In Germline a group of cloned teenaged female warriors are introduced to the front line (males are not used because they lost control and became too violent). Exogene is the story of one of those warriors.
The clones are supposed to fight for two years and then they begin to break down mentally and physically and are rounded up to be killed. While they are maturing, they are indoctrinated into a culture of violence and death. Their universe is ruled by a god that rewards killing, rewards dying in battle and despises fear and mercy. In short, these teenaged girls are bred and trained to be pitiless fighting machines.
Except, they are not machines.
Deep down, they are people...and Exogene is the story of Catherine, a clone soldier that decides she does not want to die when her two years have expired. She questions everything - her religion, the orders she receives and especially the expectation that she is to give up and die because her two years are up.
Exogene takes the reader far from the battlefields of Kazakhstan into Russia, into North and South Korea and beyond. The world of Exogene is seriously screwed up - damaged by nuclear war, cloning soldiers, experimenting with human/robot hybrids and through it all Catherine pushes along: experiencing, thinking and learning what it is to be human.
A remarkable novel. I rate it 5 out of 5 stars.
This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Exogene (The Subterrene War)
Reviewed on June 1, 2012.