Monday, October 29, 2007


by Richard K. Morgan
A few years ago, I attended a talk by Richard Wrangham about the origins of human violence. He proposed the idea that we humans had been domesticating ourselves, over tens of thousands of years, much the way a group of wolves domesticated themselves into dogs. Richard K. Morgan seems to have latched onto this idea, and it led to his latest novel, Thirteen, taking place in a world dealing with the fallout of rampant genetic modification. Turns out that mucking about with human DNA maybe wasn't such a great idea, and most of the products of those experiments have either been killed off or relegated to the margins of society. Carl Marsalis, whose genetic modifications were sponsored by the military, is a "thirteen," created to be a throwback, undoing thousands of years of human domestication. This doesn't make him an evil person, but he has no compulsion to fit into society, and no hesitation about using violence to solve problems. This doesn't endear him to many human beings, most of whom either want to see him dead or to use him for their own purposes. Towards the beginning of the book, he's sprung out of a Florida jail to help hunt down a serial killer -- another thirteen. I don't read a lot of books that are this action-packed and suspenseful. A great ride, with a thoughtful premise.

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