The Games by Ted Kosmatka

Disclaimer: This reading was my attempt to go back and claw through my towering pile to backed up TO_READ novels. Something about the book struck me and before long, I was being swept along in this pulpy action packed, almost cinematic thrill ride of a science fiction novel.

This book blew me away. I cannot believe this is the FIRST novel by Ted Kosmatka, the man who had won Nebula/Hugo for his shorter works, really creates a pitch-perfect science fiction thriller that is executed in the most stunning manner for his first book.

I was hooked right from page one - I was taking a break from my "newer" novels to be reviewed and bought this book as I've 'heard' great things. You know, SF is no longer my thing. But the way Ted writes, he'd got HUGE TALONS hooked deep into me, right from the first chapter on.

Olympic games that involves genetic monstrosities fighting each other ? Intriguing. In America, in 2044 where each country is out to prove its supremacy in this genetic engineering race, a errant genius creates a sentient AI that seeds the plan for the decimation of the human race worldwide. The plan is set in motion - and America's foremost geneticist Silas Williams, an unknown pawn in the play of things, creates a 'gladiator' as per the supercomputer's design. The genetic makeup of which is previously unheard of. He has his misgivings and they hire a 'xenobiologist', Vidonia Joao who could probably crack this puzzle. But this puzzle is a living thing, that has it's own mission that could prove to be terrifying.

The novel begins with this prologue that introduces us to Evan Chandler, the errant genius child and then switches over to Silas as the "gladiator" is born and goes through an astonishing pace of growth. There are not too many secondary characters other than Chandler or Williams - Ted keeps it pretty taut, rapidly unspooling into a bloody thriller - yielding to layers of horror, graphic and unrepentant as the scale of terror is finally revealed in the second half of the book.

This is a book that again dips into the folds of science fiction to give us a hard-hitting truth about unethical science that spills out because of man's greed for power. The head of Olympic Commission, Baskov is one face of the evil. This set up closely resembles Crichton's structure of writing a "scientific" thriller where the face of pure evil is science gone wrong but there are catalysts to the same in terms of human intervention. The novel posits wide-reaching sociological and philosophical questions on the future of humanity - there are some clever SF-nal touches to remind us that this is indeed, set in the future but nothing outrageous enough to take the focus away from the horror of genetics. Silas as the central character really is a pretty sympathetic character we can identify with - conflicted, upright and the moral compass through which the reader views the events unfold. Vidonia provides able support. The rest of them fade against the bloody backdrop of terror unsheathed as the Gladiator gets into form.

An entirely original novel, Ted Kosmatka announces his arrival to the genre pretty well. An entertaining SF thriller for all genre fans and readers outside who are in the mood for something original that rivals Crichton and Koontz. 


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