lunes, 17 de noviembre de 2014

The Genome, by Sergei Lukyanenko

(Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.)

Review Soundtrack: I suggest reading this review while listening to the Caprice No. 24, composed by Niccolò Paganini (Spotify, YouTube). 

I've had several of Sergei Lukyanenko's novels sitting on my shelves for some years now but, for some reason or other, I have never decided to give them a try. Then, I had the chance of getting an Advanced Reading Copy of The Genome which had a very interesting synopsis and decided it was time to start reading Lyukanenko's work. 

One of the strongest points of The Genome is the worldbuilding. In the future, genetic engineering is so advanced that it is possible to "program" people with the perfect physical and psychological conditions for a certain kind of work, giving raise to what are called specializations or speshs. Thus, we have pilot-speshs, detective-speshs, fighter-speshs... people with enhanced capabilities which also love the job they are supposed to do.

Of course, these specializations have profound implications both for the society as a whole and for the individuals and Lukyanenko explores some of these questions, especially those regarding free will and racism. The speculation is not only interesting but very relevant for the plot, which starts with a distinct Space Opera feel and by the final third of the novel turns into something completely different (which I won't reveal here to avoid spoilers).

For all the subtlety that Lukyanenko shows when exploring the social and philosophical implications of genetic manipulation, it is surprising how shallow and clichéd the relationships between the characters are. All the female characters are irresistibly attracted to Alex, the main protagonist and master-pilot of the ship, and are always (and I mean always) willing to have sex with him. Even when they get together, they talk about, guess what?, having sex with Alex (I'm not very confident in The Genome's passing the Bechdel test). Also, the evolution of the one gay crew member is so ludicrous that I had to read a certain paragraph before believing what my eyes where seeing.

The Genome is, for the most part a very fun read (especially the first and third chapters of the three in which the novel is divided) and even addresses some interesting and profound issues. But the problem with the unrealistic and misogynist characterization of the some protagonists may be really annoying (it certainly was for me at some points) for many readers.

All in all, I'd recommend The Genome as a fun and quick read, with the caveat of the potentially infuriating portrayal of some of the characters. If you are able to not take those issues too seriously, I think you'll quite enjoy the novel. Otherwise, you'd better stay away from it.

(You can also read this review in Spanish/También puedes leer esta reseña en español)

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