Orbit, Mar 1 2012, $7.99
As the war between Russia and America continues unabated, both sides use genetic warrior exogenes. Imprinted in these lab-created teen killers is strict adherence to “faith and death”. These soldiers know deep in their DNA that death is their only path to honor and salvation.
Sixteen and half years old Catherine is a killing machine; the greatest lab produced soldier made in America. However, Catherine begins to doubt her suicidal mission as she wants to live. Her phobic fear of dying appears to be early ramifications of the “spoiling” that exogenes suffer when they reach their eighteenth birthday. Catherine flees her sisters in arms and takes a chance she will survive the spoiling though her creators insist that is impossible. She encounters Russian male genetically created soldiers, learns of the Russian Exogenic Enhancement and observes firsthand the folly of armchair warriors when she looks at the North Korean nuclear wasteland. As she struggles to control flashbacks of her violent past that leaves her vulnerable, Catherine wonders if her only choices are death, the Americans or the Russians; she loathes all three options.
Though filled with plenty action especially combat, the superb second Subterrene War military science fiction (see Germline) is a great character study as readers get inside the mind of a former zealot born again as a doubter. Ironically Catherine’s doubts are not about killing as that is wired into her brain; but instead she questions killing as a weapon of mass destruction deployed by fat cats rather than her selecting who her enemy is. With a profound look at organized governments and religions tenet to kill in God’s name as a stairway to heaven for expendable soldiers, readers will relish learning who Catherine is.