Reviewed by: Pete Barber
Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopian/Noir/Punk
Approximate word count: 75,000-80,000 words
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Anderson O’Donnell lives in Connecticut with his wife and son. Kingdom is his debut novel.
Set in a possible North American near-future at two main locations. Tibor City, a gritty metropolis where anything is available if you have enough money and life is unbearable if you don’t, and the New Mexico desert where Morrison Biotech pollutes the air and ground as it bio-engineers products, and where, in secret underground laboratories, project Exodus is run, with the objective to clone a perfect president for North America.
Some aspects of this novel are stellar. Particularly the descriptions of Tibor City. I could feel the grit catching in the corners of my eyes. I could see the fumes and smoke. I felt the pulsing music in the exclusive nightclubs where Dylan, our twenty-something protagonist hung out, smoked hash, snorted coke, and mingled with the ‘beautiful people.’ As the author builds and then takes us though this future world, he fills the pages with vivid images and profound, thought-provoking social and political commentary. I was solidly in the ‘sold and convinced’ camp regarding Tibor City and the socio-economic environment presented to me.
The story follows two primary threads: Dylan, son of a recent presidential candidate who committed suicide, and Campbell, who founded the biotech corporation along with his partner Morrison. When Campbell realizes (too late) what project Exodus is all about he bails on the corporation, and, in the main, on life as well.
Dylan is well drawn. The process by which he learns the truth about his father’s suicide, and indeed about the very nature of his father, is well managed and compelling.
Campbell was always distant to me. His life is saved by an underground order of Monks, who turn out to be scientists trying to identify the human soul through technological examination. This ‘soul’ resides in a specific gene, lacking in the cloned humans produced by Morrison Bio. For me, this concept was ill defined. I found it hard to root for Campbell, because I didn’t really know what he wanted to achieve. Morrison, the evil, all-powerful corporate baddie was stereotypically bent on achieving his aims regardless of costs, but his aims were also unclear. I knew what Morrison wanted to achieve, but I never really understood why.
I read every word, nothing skimmed, which is a credit to the writing quality because there were long narrative descriptions within the story, but the imagery and concepts were always strong enough to hold my interest.
Overall, a fascinating read--hard to believe this is a debut novel.
There is one gratuitously violent scene that I didn’t enjoy. And one gratuitous sex scene which I enjoyed very much. So I’ll say they offset.
Too few errors to complain.
Rating: **** Four stars