Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Genome: A Novel by Sergei Lukyanenko--An Exciting New Sci-Fi Book To Be Released For Sale at Bookstands 12-02-14!

Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     "'It is simplicity itself,' said [Sherlock Holmes]; 'my eyes tell me that on the inside of your left shoe, just where the firelight strikes it, the leather is scored by six almost parallel cuts. Obviously they have been caused by someone who has very carelessly scraped round the edges of the sole in order to remove crusted mud from it. Hence, you see, my double deduction that you had been out in vile weather, and that you had a particularly malignant boot-slitting specimen of the London slavey.' [...]

     "I could not help laughing at the ease with which he explained his process of deduction. 'When I hear you give your reasons,' I remarked, 'the thing always appears to me to be so ridiculously simple that I could easily do it myself, though at each successive instance of your reasoning I am baffled until you explain your process. And yet I believe that my eyes are as good as yours'" (Bohemia. 1.12-13). (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.) [2] 

     In the above-passage, we get to see Watson [Sherlock Holmes' Assistant] react to Holmes' reasoning. The analogy to this vignette is that of someone who having watched a magician perform a wonderful magic trick, cannot fathom how it was done, and so, it seems wondrous to the viewer. 


    Then when the viewer has had the magician's slight of hand described to him with all the secrets revealed about how it was concocted, it seems so very simple a child could understand how it was done. Hence, Watson's being so baffled as to why he did not see what was right before his eyes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle uses this trope many times throughout his writing to keep reminding the reader that Holmes is brilliant and ever many, many steps ahead of the reader. [2]       

     What does Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes have to do with Sergei Lukyanenko's, The Genome? Let's connect the dots and get our first clues by taking a look at the synopsis of the book.

BOOK SYNOPSIS: The Genome: A Novel:
     Alex Romanov walked out of the hospital, recovered from a horrible accident that nearly caused his death. Alex, worried that he would never be able to fly again as a master-pilot, and nearly out of money, walked out of the hospital with no place to go, no job, and no apartment. 

     With only enough money to rent a room for the day, he checks in and then looks through the want ads. Alex answers an ad to pilot a passenger spacecraft called, the Mirror. The pay is really good, and he can pick his own crew. The question is, is this offer, too good to be true? Alex wonders what the catch is. 

     Alex is confident of his abilities because he has been genetically modified to be able to do all the tasks required of a master-pilot, including being genetically altered to protect and care for his crew and the ship's passengers. The genetic code has been modified to be carried out, without regard to what it would cost him--even his life. Alex interviews potential crew members and eventually fills each post--albeit with a rather strange assortment of crew members who have also been genetically altered (once altered, they are called, "speshes"). 

     Alex boards his ship, takes command, and the crew members arrive. The Mirror leaves port with a precious cargo on board, two high representatives of a strange alien race (The Zzygou), often, called, "The Others," with whom he is tasked to take on an expedition of the worlds that humans inhabit. 

     Unfortunately, Master-pilot Alex Romanov won't have a very easy cruise--among his crew are speshes who hate "The Others." Which of the crew hides a dark past, which guards a deadly secret, and who has a stolen a mysterious "gel-crystal"? A near-fatal collision, increasing tensions, sexual liasons, and unseen hands manipulating events behind the scene cause Master-pilot Alex Romanov to use every bit of his skill as a master-pilot spesh to save the Mirror and it's passengers. If he doesn't save the ship, something even more ominous threatens to annihilate not only the ship, but multiple races and planets. 

     All this and then...someone new shows up. Someone by the name of Peter C-the-Forty-Fourth Valke, AKA Sherlock Holmes, the greatest detective of all time. He is, of course, a clone. What shocking turn of events will happen next?

     Lukyanenko crafted an enjoyable and intriguing opening to his science fiction novel, The Genome: A Novel. Seeing Alex Romanov coming out of the hospital, having recovered from a near-death accident made me wonder just what kind of accident he had had. Lukyanenko had me thinking from the very beginning. So...I liked his opening very much. And, it just kept on growing in intrigue for me as he met and saved a fourteen-year-old girl and was propelled forward into a situation seemingly beyond his control.

     Ah, then there is one of my favorite things about the book. I really love the plot. The story examines what it is like to be fully human--and not. With the genetic changes made to humans, turning them into "speshes," the question naturally arises about whether the altered have becomes slaves...slaves tied by DNA chains that force them to serve. An echo of this theme is seen in "The Others" (The Zzygou) who call humans, servants, and while offensive to human beings we can only wonder if the Zzygou are correct.

     Tangentially, within the questions arising about being human is the consideration of human emotion. What is love? Does love survive the dramatic changes thrust upon the humans altered by genetic change? Do the "speshes" really have a choice or are they slaves to their own coding?

Cloning is just one of the issues in
Sergei Lukyanenko's, The Genome:
A Novel. [6]
     Thirdly, issues of cloning and multiple cloning also arises. Bias and hatred for clones also come to the fore of the story, as does a rather gruesome type of capital punishment, why it was outlawed in certain political planet's systems but not in others. It seems Lukyanenko touches the very core of the ethics of cloning, genetic alteration, capital punishment, murder, slavery, humanity, love and loyalty, the right to choose, war and pretense for war, bias and xenophobia, sexuality, and of course, the ethics involved in all these fields. Magnificent, and monumental questions that go to the very heart of what it means to be fully human.

     Another real positive is that the book is eminently readable. No complicated jargon or convoluted scientific explanations mar the story. You need not know anything about genomes, DNA, scientific method, or other science-related material. Just sit back and enjoy a good sci-fi story that becomes a murder mystery.

     Without going into any depth, I have to say I also liked the character development--notably Alex Romanov. I also really liked the world Lukyanenko created as the setting for his story. Likewise, the plot takes a simple mystery, and as the story progresses, so does the mystery. How far down the rabbit hole does the plot wind? And finally, I just simply enjoyed the story...'nuf said.

     Let's start out with what bothered me the most. At about 66% of the way through the book, the apparent sci-fi story took a dramatic turn and became a murder mystery. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the murder mystery. The problem was the transition from sci-fi to murder mystery. 

     Lukyanenko had the long slow build-up in preparation for what would be the most exciting parts of the book. That's fine. But as a reader, I just felt that suddenly I was thrust from a sci-fi story into the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's, Sherlock Holmes' stories. Even the clone/detective/investigator was named Sherlock Holmes. At that point, the reader followed Sherlock and Alex around the ship as they searched for the clues to the murder of      ?         (name withheld). Never mind that because of the murder, the ship was parked on the brink of destruction (and following that, even bigger, badder consequences--again, I withhold that info.). 

     Some readers might object to the open sexuality in the book, for example, fourteen-year-old girls being trained in the sexual arts as well as assassination; clones having the responsibility of sexual service to aliens; multiple sexual partners and apparent agreement amongst all involved; the undercurrent of homosexuality, etc. Although I don't have a problem with the sex in the book, I wanted to give readers notice of its content. The sex included in the book was not gratuitous.

[1] and [9]
     Although I liked that the story had a somewhat upbeat ending for Alex, after the major problems he faced in the book, the ending seemed a bit contrived, again, without adequate set-up for the hasty ending.

     Given all the reasons I have given, above, have to say, this novel is not for children or young readers, nor for those of a sensitive nature. However, all adult readers of sci-fi and murder mysteries will find the story engaging and enjoyable. I would, therefore, recommend this book to all adult readers of those genres.

     For all the reasons I have stated, above, I, therefore, award this wonderful book a rating of 4.0 stars out of 5.0 stars. Congratulations to Sergei Lukyanenko for his completion of this wonderful new sci-fi book. I look forward to reading many more of Lukyanenko's books.

     Thank you for joining me this week as we were privileged to delve into the world of sci-fi (and, murder most foul!). Please join me next week as we will get to look at, yet, another interesting and exciting book. 

     Take some time this week to appreciate all the people and good things in your life--remember we only have one life. We only have one day. We only have the moment in which we are living to enjoy and appreciate the precious gift of life. And, don't forget, read a little bit every day, you will be the better for it.

Until next time...
This flower is a double white Rose of Sharon. [11]
...many happy pages of reading!

All my love,

[1] "Genome." amazon.com. Retrieved 10-15-14.
[2] "Cunning and Cleverness Quotes Page 1." schmoop.com. Retrieved 10-20-14.
[3] "No Suit, Sherlock: Doyle Estate is Embroiled in Public Domain Legal Battle." gawker.com. Retrieved 10-20-14.
[4] "First Clue." twitter.com. Retrieved 10-20-14.
[5] "Deadly Secret." figment.com. Retrieved 10-20-14.
[6] "Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer IS Human Cloning." lifenews.com. Retrieved 10-21-14.
[7] "Library Murder Mystery." durhamlibrary.org. Retrieved d10-21-14.
[8] "The Science of Sexuality." scienceworld.ca. Retrieved 10-21-14.
[9] "GoodReads Author: Author Profile--Sergei Lukyanenko." goodreads.com. Retrieved 10-21-14.
[10] "Mediabridge Products, LLC." bulbszone.com. Retrieved 10-21-14.
[11] "Pictures From My Garden." sparkpeople.com. Retrieved 10-21-14.
[*] "NetGalley Disclaimer." netgalley.com. Retrieved 10-20-14.
[**] "We Have a $1,000 Geonome. Now What?" vectorblog.org.; "What is a Genome?" ghr.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 10-20-14.