Stars: 3.5 out of 5
I have noticed a recurring theme with Blake Crouch’s books – they are very readable, but I don’t always “mesh” with the story as much as I would like to. The same thing happened with this book.
It started strong. The premise is chilling it its actuality. This is a very near future that could very well result from the actions we are taking today – global warming, widespread pollution of our environment, etc. Add to it experimentation with the DNA of anything and everything, and you have an explosive mix. No wonder it blows up in everybody’s faces.
Basically, a group of geneticists spearheaded by the protagonist’s mother bioengineered a mosquito to carry a virus that would make rice paddies immune to a certain type of mold that was killing the crops… then they released it into nature. Things went horribly wrong. The virus jumped from rice to other crops, which resulted in a catastrophic decrease in yields. Hence widespread famine that killed several billion people worldwide. Now genome modification is outlawed, and our protagonist works for the enforcement agency, trying to atone for his mother’s sins.
I loved that premise. There is a lot to unpack here. I even liked the protagonist, and there is plenty of action. Yet, the closer I got to the end of the book, the more disengaged I became with the story. And I’m not really sure what caused me not to “mesh” with this particular book. As I said, it is well written and hugely readable.
I think one of the reasons is that our protagonist is dead set on stopping his sister, even though he acknowledges that something needs to be done before humanity annihilates itself. He never offers an alternative solution, he is just dead-set on stopping her. And to me, that rung false. I’m sure that if he’d come to his sister and said, “Humanity still have about 100 years before we crash and burn. How about we slow down and try to modify the parameters of this genetic payload we are trying to mass-deliver? How about we do this instead?” She would have worked with him.
Instead he spends months trying to track his sister down and thwart her plans, and the alternative solution that’s supposed to save mankind is mentioned in passing in the epilogue of the book. That was rather… underwhelming. I understand the message that the author wanted to give us with this story, but I think it would have been more impactful, if he’d laid a little bit more ground work for it throughout the book.
As it stands though, it was still a very enjoyable story, even if the ending wasn’t to my liking.
PS: I received and advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.