(2011/2014) Kazuaki Takano, Mulholland, £8.99, pbk, 507pp, ISBN 978-1-444-75953-2
This is the 2014 translation from the 2011 bestselling Japanese novel where it was entitled Genocide, which gives a clearer flavour of what the novel is about. In the Congo, a new evolutionary advance in humans is discovered in a tribe of pygmies. Extinction shows how we react to that, with fear, mistrust and violence.
Nicely paced, and with multiple points of view, this is more a thriller than a science fiction novel. When the hard right American administration finds out about the evolutionary event they conclude that it will lead to the mass extinction of humanity, as the new strain of humans will be stronger and brighter than us and ultimately wipe us out, just like we did to the Neanderthals. The solution is to eliminate the new human and those around him, so that the evolutionary advance is destroyed and cannot be replicated. So they send in a special ops team with kill orders.
The team finds a three year old child, Akili, but instead of killing him they are persuaded to help him escape, with the assistance of a Japanese student and a satellite link. The Americans then make an uneasy alliance with all the Congolese rebels they can find and the Special Ops team has to fight its way out, with each member having to question his values, loyalties and motivations. The body count rises.
This is a story of American paranoia and Japanese ingenuity, all wrapped in a Tom Clancy type package. Unlike most of the translated novels I have read recently, it doesn’t seem to suffer by not being read in its native language, though that might be because you’d read this book for its action, not its nuance. When Michael Crichton’s referenced on the back cover, you should know what you are getting. It is not bad, but it is not an evolutionary leap either. Okay to while away the hours on a beach, not really recommended for much else.
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