Generation is a scifi page turner that presents a horrifying vision of what the advances of science may bring.
Once I’d figured out these themes, I was comforted by the fact I couldn’t get my ebook copy to load on my antiquated Kobo at first, and the browser plug in I downloaded is clunky. (For the record, I blame my Kobo – the file loaded fine in the browser.) Whatever evil scientists are up to, they’re a way off achieving world domination yet.
(Tips for Bookie Minions: did you know you can read epub books in your web browser? I didn’t either! Google “epub reader for [preferred browser]” and see what happens. And, oh, look, you can get Generation for Kindle right this moment. That’s handy. Check your plug ins before you buy though!)
Technical difficulties overcome, I cracked the virtual spine of Generation to meet our hero, Hendrix Harrison. Harrison is a third-rate journalist hunting ghosts in the English countryside. The ghosts seem connected to Mendal, the MegaScienceCorp. (Mendal! He was that guy from the olden days that grew peas in punnet squares that you learned about in form five biology.) University professor Dr Sarah Wallace is researching the human decomposition in a creepy field/graveyard thing and seems to know a little about the Mendal’s research. And it turns out that the ghosts Harrison’s looking into aren’t ghosts after all. The dead are walking.
These aren’t the horrifying zombies that we’re so used to seeing on telly. These zombies to be pitied – we meet some of their families and hear some of their voices. A zombie with a soul is about a billion times more horrifying than brainless, brain-munching golems of pop culture. And unless Harrison and Dr Wallace work together to expose Mendal’s horror to the world, we could all share their fates…
That’s the set up in a nutshell. The rest of the book is resolution, and a very nice resolution it was too. Generation kept me turning virtual pages and kept me guessing. There’s enough subplots to keep things interesting, but not too many to slow things down. The writing is nicely paced, and the characters develop through the story arc.
About the only criticism I have is the lack of solid female characters. Dr Sarah Wallace is the only leading lady, and although somewhat less nuanced than our protagonist, conducts herself very admirably. Dr Wallace is essential to the plot, driving it forwards and supporting our protagonist, Hendrix Harrison, when he lacks a vital clue. The other lady-characters are someone’s wife, and a grad student, who, we are told, is not as bright as her male counterpart. One main female character and a couple of supporting ones are not enough to make up for the legion of male characters. Cops and professors are male when they could have just as easily been female – and nurses are ladies and the doctors are men. It’s irritating because it would have taken almost no effort to create a gender balance.
This is a criticism I have of almost every book I read, and I guess I’m giving it more space than usual, because there’s little else in Generation to pick on. Except, I will say this: New Scientist Magazine is not a scientific journal. It is a magazine and it’s silly to pretend otherwise, even in a sci fi book with zombies.
Like all literature, sci fi can teach us something about ourselves. Because sci fi uses allegory instead of absurdly self-aware characters and ridiculous plot set ups (I guess I should I say allegory as ridiculous plot set ups, but my point still stands) folks who haven’t read sci fi can scoff a little. That’s sad because they’re missing out on some really great allegories. Zombies are often used to criticise greed and materialism and they certainly are in this case. Being zombified is both a horrifying punishment for those who have bought in – literally or figuratively – to Mendal’s MegaScience, or the inevitable result of the masses standing by and not stopping the MegaSciences from advancing.
Generation deserves to be shelved next to the current breed of really good sci fi. It’s a page turner with a message. Recommended.