Orbit, out now
God and Faith: the two tenets by which the genetically engineered female soldiers of the Subterrene War live. But what happens when they are questioned?
If you’ve not read the first volume of The Subterrene War, then some of the set up for Exogene may be more than a little confusing when you start this novel, but you very quickly are drawn into the world that the narrator, Catherine, describes in such vivid detail.
To create the perfect soldiers for this messy future war, Christianity is reworked in man’s image. The religious teachings are perverted into an exultation of death and destruction, with the uppermost thought in the girls’ minds to kill or achieve a glorious death, after which they will be rewarded at God’s right hand, when She will look on them with great favour. (The parallels with another religious war of contemporary times aren’t hammered home, but are clearly there if you choose to look for them.)
One of the side-effects of the girls being created aged 15 is that they could go through the natural teenage questioning process if they live too long – which is one reason why they have a designed lifetime of two years – and Catherine’s journey questioning her faith in God and the role of the “nonbred” (i.e. ordinary humans) is at the heart of this tale. There are numerous flashbacks to her time on the front line and the horrifying things that are literally second nature to her – this isn’t a book for the faint of heart – and at the back of the reader’s mind is the military request at the start of the story for a Psychopomp (and I strongly recommend that you follow the advice at the end of the prologue – it will change how you read the story!)
Verdict: A sometimes harrowing account, it’s a much more personal tale than its predecessor and provides an interesting perspective on conflict. 7/10