Part One of Knight’s Hunger series dramatizes the potential nightmare of ignorant tinkering with the code of life. Of course this is a logical extreme for plot purposes, but I hope it will nudge the less imaginative into taking a personal stand on the GMO debate. Every time we try broadscale alterations of nature we make horrendous mistakes we can’t eradicate: consider the importation of various insects and animals to “solve” pest problems, experimentation with powerful drugs without informed consent, even South Africa’s admission that scientists were attempting to create a virus to curtail the black population during the apartheid era.
Jeremiah Knight highlights the GMO crop controversy in glowing, gruesome detail. While he attempts to individuate his characters, they are brought to life more effectively by Jeffrey Kater’s mesmerizing narration than by literary detail. At times I had the sense they were interesting but non-essential vehicles to carry the plot. Where the narrative truly stands out is in the creation of exogenic monsters: the creatures who develop from the super-fast mutations (“unlocked” by the super gene theoretically designed to end hunger) are amazing feats of imagination. Birds reverting to predatory versions of their dinosaur ancestors, human beings fast-forwarding to herd-hunting ever-hungry cannibal creatures (I liked the “rattle-tail” nomenclature developed by the grunts), a bat larger than a man existing as an apex predator, and a gigantic pig not even recognizable as such due to its super-sizing and adaptive deformations–allowing all to prey effectively on other predators–are just a few of the nightmarish creatures encountered by one small family in its attempt to escape following the destruction of the comparative safety of their biodome. Each plot point pivots on another act of destruction by the same woman who was ultimately responsible for the release of the devastating gene change that is now destroying humanity.
The “love story” between this geneticist, Ella, and Peter the super soldier/father/farmer/lover is unfortunately not terribly convincing, especially when you consider that Ella was responsible for Peter’s wife turning into a monster who tried to eat her own son (among other genetic abuses I won’t reveal). But the adventure story does move along at a frenetic pace with plenty of military spin for readers who enjoy gun/bomb/knife battles and hand-to-hand combat. And I will keep an eye out for Part Two … as long as it is narrated by Jeffrey Kater.
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