My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Reading T.C.’s Subterrene War Trilogy has been an interesting and memorable experience. The first book, Germline, blew me out of the water (my five star review). I’ve never read a book like that, and loved the personal connection I had to the main character’s journey. I loved that story and T.C.’s in-your-face-war style so much that I couldn’t enjoy any other books because they weren’t the next book in his series.
(By the way, I talked with T.C. over at the SF Signal podcast #140, about his journey to publication and development of this series, so please go have a listen.)
All that said, rating a book after feeling so strongly about the first book makes it almost unfair. After all, this is a different main character, and really the only difference as far as quality between the two books is that I connected more personally with the main character in Germline. Regardless, T.C. picks up right where left off in terms of complicated characters thrown into high-stakes warfare to give me the fix I needed after the emotional thrill ride of Germline. It was a tough act to follow, but he did a tremendous job without making it feel like a repetition of old tricks.
Exogene‘s hero, Catherine, is a complex character, and I believe T.C. did a masterful job of weaving multiple issues into a fast-paced story. You get the futuristic technology involved in her being a genetically created assassin (awesome), but you also get insight into her philosophical questions. Catherine, a.k.a. Little Murderer, has been bred and brainwashed to hate the enemy she is ordered to kill, but when her and her lover escape, she encounters so many new perspectives, that the real enemy becomes muddled–including whether she is the real enemy. This girl is constantly questioning why she hates, her purpose in being alive if her natural drive is to kill, whether God exists and if he does whether he cares or is sovereign over her path, and ultimately how she can find peace within herself.
T.C. paints a beautiful story that can be read over and over. His weaving of hallucination memories in with the present day action not only makes you fear for her losing it, but also provides a way at discovering the depth of her character in pictures of her struggles that link past to present, dropping clues as to what she is learning as T.C. repeats the theme of warriors desperately trying to escape war. The climax is very well done and surprising, once again making it hard to go on to read anything else but Book Three, Chimera. I expect this series to go down as one of my favorites.
I’ve also reviewed his short story, “Sunshine,” which is one of his short stories in this same universe, but a couple centuries in the future. A very cool story and well-worth your time reading.