Invisible College Press, LLC/330 pages
Although things are a bit confusing in the opening couple chapters, once this novel takes off, it’s a juggernaut. At its heart, Gramlich’s story is an old fashioned science fiction tale from the fifties or early sixties—and that’s not a bad thing. His writing at times reminded me of Heinlen, with its muscular prose and solid pacing. Gramlich though infuses modern, edgy sensibility and carefully sets the stage for jarring action sequences with a strong cinematic quality to them.
In one outstanding chapter, where the heroes are preparing for a last stand in an old sawmill, it is easy to call to mind the work of director John McTiernan (Predator) or Ridley Scott (Alien).
Without giving away too much, the story surrounds a secret government installation in the Ozarks. When an experiment goes wrong and several of the “creatures” escape, a group of locals stumble into the middle of the violence, helping a pregnant being and her mate elude the military and a predatory group of test subjects known as the “Warkind.” An artist, a sheriff and his deputy, a veternarian, and a teenager in rebellion of authority form the core of the humans struggling to save the mother and child and expose the conspiracy.
Like all good science fiction, there are large thematic issues called up by the narrative. How are we to define humanity and human behavior? What is the role of science in our society, and where should boundaries be drawn in its application? While these themes aren’t handled with any startling revelations within the narrative, they’re always worth asking and their presence helps the reader establish a framework for the sequence of events within the story.
This is an uneven novel which could have benefitted from some editing for economy, but considering I say that for every Stephen King novel, it’s a minor nit. Overall, I would recommend this as a worthy entry and a fun read. I would certainly be game for a sequel.