Thursday, 28 September 2017

The X-Variant

The X-Variant

by Rosemary Cole

4 out of 5

Synopsis
This is a science fiction tale about a time-traveling girl and a zombie apocalypse.

With her peaceful utopian world crumbling and humanity’s very existence under threat, Kala must travel back in time to 2079—when a synthetic viral pandemic is raging across the globe—in a desperate attempt to change the course of the future. She must succeed. But if she does, it could mean the end of her people forever.


Review
Kala and the other Unathi are perfect. That is, until a defect in the genes starts to turn them into violent monsters. As the Unathi race are facing extinction, the only solution is to go back in time and eradicate this faulty gene.

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

In the future, humans have evolved to become Unathi. A genetically engineered race that exists with a symbiont. These symbionts heal wounds and sicknesses, prolong life, inject necessary adrenaline or chemically balance any panic. They communicate with others on the dronenet, which also provides the host with information.
The Unathi are perfect. The race is intelligent and open. Feeling anger or hate is a foreign concept; and things like racism and wars are relegated to the history books.

But suddenly they are not perfect. A dormant gene has been triggered, and the Unathi are changing into Xin.
The futuristic zombies are an impressive creation. I liked that, in Cole's world, it isn't about infection or viruses. Instead, it's a genetic certainty, a time-bomb. You're never safe, because even in your group of friends, every single one is a potential Xin.

They quickly discover that there is no cure, and the Unathi will become extinct. The only solution is a radical gamble - the have to travel back in time to stop the faulty gene becoming dominant, by promoting a beta version that has no flaws.
Which all sounds nice and logical, but the truth is, their mission is to go back in time and kill all faulty gene-carriers.

It's really interesting to watch the peaceful and passive Unathi become ruthless killers. They may do it in a "humane" way, and for the greater good; but there is the question that hovers, over what right they have to interfere.

Kala, our main character, is in an even harder position. She is different to the other Unathi, she is stronger, heals faster, and has an instinct to fight and kill to defend her friends. But she is still a pacifist, and she becomes attached to the humans that the others treat as cattle.
She doesn't want to kill, even though she is the one most suited to it.
I think Cole does a really convincing job at presenting these tests of morals verse survival.

The downside:
I found the pacing very slow. There is a lot of musing, and it gets heavy explanations - ok, you need some in a sci-fi zombie story; but it felt like the writer was double-guessing how well her world would be understood, especially in the first half. There's also a fair bit of repetitiveness, as it's stressed that Kala is special, but her symbiont won't tell her why, etc.
Despite their troubles, the Unathi always came across as very bland. That's to be expected in a blended race with essentially a shared conscious; but because they were major players in this book, the blandness bled through a lot of the scenes.

I wasn't entirely convinced by the final setting. After spending so long avoiding humans and avoiding all contact with her SanFran Unathi, I found it hard to believe that Kala suddenly decided to contact the other Unathi group. There was no mention of seeking them out, or why they should be more open-minded or lenient on the humans in her group. It just sorta happened.

Overall, it was a 3.5 out of 5 for me. It ended on enough of a cliff-hanger that I'm intrigued to find out what happens next.

Goodreads link
Amazon UK


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