Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Genome, by Sergei Lukyanenko

The Genome, by Sergei Lukyanenko, is a very good sci-fi novel.  I'm tempted to call it great.  Lukyanenko, a Russian writer, creates an original, rich future history, featuring colonization of other planetary systems, contact with other species, and, most importantly for this novel, highly advanced human genetic engineering.  Plus he tells a great murder mystery.

Alex, our protagonist, has been released from a long stay in the hospital and just happens to see an ad seeking a pilot to serve as captain on a new spaceship.  He's a spesh, genetically bred to be a pilot, and jumps at the chance to sit in the captain's seat.  He gathers a crew and gets his first assignment from his mysterious, absentee boss: to take 2 "others" and their bodyguard on a tourist trip to several planets.  When one of the guests is found brutally murdered in the quarters, and every member of the small crew has a possible motive, things get interesting.  Oh, and by the way, the murder could lead to an all-out inter-galactic war.

Lukyenko builds the story carefully, in such a way that I enjoyed the atmosphere, the characters, and the universe he constructs, without really worrying about where the story was going.  I knew there was some inevitable conflict on the horizon, but did not expect what happened.  After the murder, a spesh named Sherlock Holmes (I know, it sounds a little silly, but it works) comes on board to investigate.  With large doses of homage to Arthur Conan Doyle, Lukyanenko turns the story into a classic murder mystery, complete with the gathering of all the suspects for the big reveal.

Lukyanenko brings together all the elements of a terrific murder mystery and sci-fi adventure in The Genome, while delving into the shaping of our personalities and our very identities.  Even in a world where not only physical characteristics but also emotional and psychological traits can be determined in the womb, Lukyanenko asks, Can an individual still be autonomous?  The Genome is a fun read and an interesting story.  I hope more of his work is translated into English.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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