Sunday, 7 October 2012

Halloween Countdown: KWEENY REVIEWS...KINGDOM

Here's my contribution to the Kingdom Tour! Lucky me, I am first on the list to share my review of the anticipated novel: Kingdom! Feel free to check out other stops on the novel's tour through the First Rule Publicity site! 

In a secret laboratory hidden under the desert, a covert bioengineering project--codename "Exodus"--has discovered the gene responsible for the human soul.

Somewhere in the neon sprawl outside the nation's collapsing economic core, a group of renegade monks are on the verge of uncovering a secret that has eluded mankind for centuries.

In a glittering tower high above the urban decay, an ascendant U.S. Senator is found dead--an apparent, yet inexplicable, suicide.

And in the streets below, a young man races through an ultra modern metropolis on the verge of a violent revolution....closing in on the terrible truth behind Exodus--and one man's dark vision for the future of mankind.

Welcome to Tiber City.


Let me start by saying this is not traditionally a horror novel, which is part of its charm. It’s very dark though, a bleak look at a world ravaged by science gone amok. A dystopian future where man has meddled too much, and in the process, set up his own downfall.  As you read, things become more and more apparent that even the people in slums don’t dare to dream. As if some malevolent being will hear them and thus rip what little they have left from their lives.

It’s just that kind of story.

So there is horror, and some of it is very personal. Which I enjoyed. But it’s more of a SF with philosophical leanings. The novel itself is written from three different perspectives, which at first can be a bit jarring, but the writer weaves them together well so in the end they are seamless.

 First we have a man named Dylan Fitzgerald, whose fame and money come from his dead father. Then we have Dr. Campbell, a scientist whose research into genetics and other such things were meant to help make the world a better place. And lastly, Dr. Morrison, who used the knowledge Dr. Campbell taught him to create monsters, betray Campbell and build a mega corp that has tendrils in many pies. If you are a big roleplaying dork like me, this world is very reminiscent of Shadowrun, but yet somehow still close enough to be our own world. The tech level isn’t completely over the top like in Shadowrun, but that’s part of why I like it. Hell, I could even see hints of Resident Evil, with the whole creating monsters by messing with DNA thing. (Or for those of you not gamer geeks like moi, think Bladerunner but with less replicants and more human-gene-splicing) But it’s very thematically bio-punk, edging on trans-humanism.  There is no apocalypse in this, just a world crumbling around the characters involved in it. I could see it very easily becoming our world, as there is only a few years difference from ours, and men like Dr. Campbell and Dr. Morrison would be who we’d have to thank for that.

Normally having three perspectives would make things a bit too jumbled and confusing, but O’Donnell is a masterful storyteller. It’s surprisingly an easy read, with only a few bumps at times in pacing and plot. But there are plenty of lush details about every dark corner of this world, and the characters are very engaging. They are all flawed, slightly broken people who despite knowing the world that surrounds them wants to swallow them whole, still strive to endure in this terrible place. And part of the beauty of O’Donnell’s writing style is you can see the beauty in the decay, feel the touch of life even in death.

My favorite part by far is the characters, especially Dylan. It’s probably because of how deeply personal I identified with him, despite his financial situation. His father was a politician who killed himself, leaving him a legacy both terrible and wonderful. Now he’s a fallen star, a person with money and some fame that could do things mere mortals in the slums could only imagine. And he pines for a love he lost, Megan Morrison, daughter of Michael Morrison. But he spends most of his time in a drug fueled haze, trying to run from the demons his father’s legacy has bestowed. Having lost my own mother to suicide, I identified with him right away. His emotions and turmoil felt very real. Little does Dylan know his role he will play in the bigger plot unfolding through the course of this novel. That his connection to it all isn’t just through his father.

But I also enjoyed Jonathan Campbell’s journey. His is less personal for me, but by far the more interesting of the three characters and his torture is very real. He created things that have destroyed, things that were meant to better humanity but instead, has created sickness, decay and death across the globe.  Campbell is very engaging as a character. Very flawed and seeking redemption. And through that desire to find forgiveness for his mistakes, he stumbles upon a spiritual group helping people who've fallen between the cracks. And these people are searching for the gene responsible for the human soul.

And then there is Michael Morrison. I think his character is probably the weakest, because to me he came off as the typical “evil, backstabbing scientist”.  I couldn't really relate to him, but he was a great foil to Campbell.  He meddles in not only bio engineering, but politics as well. I guess that’s part of the beauty of the Morrison character. He reminds us how far detached the rich and powerful can be. How alien they are to us and how hard it is to relate to their goals and desires. There’s probably a human being under all that genetic modification and finely pressed clothing, but it’s so repressed it might as well be gone. He’s perfect, white teethed, and clean, where Campbell could have been like that, but instead “fell from grace” when he ran from Morrison and their work. I guess that’s what makes Morrison so scary to me. He represents the 1%. He’s gained so much power, so much wealth; he can do pretty much anything he wants. And the worst part is, he’s a scientist with all this power. A mad scientist who thinks his plans and ideas are perfectly reasonable for progress.

If I had to point out a flaw within the novel it's this: At one point there is too much telling and not enough showing. As a writer, you are told to show the story, not tell the reader what’s going on. And for most of the book O'Donnell does this, and beautifully. But there is a point in the novel where a bunch of jargon is tossed at us, and it really took me out of the story. Considering all the other things going on, the writer already explains to us the plot of the novel so well he didn't need to go over it again by adding the jargon notes that clearly lay everything out. I know it’s hard to trust in a novel this dense that readers are going to follow your ideas, especially outlandish semi-science ones, but I could just fine without the extra jargon. I could piece it together from bits of what the characters were going through, from things the cultists said, from Morrison’s scheming. I didn't need a whole section full of boring, cluttering jargon to explain the plot to me like an exposition fairy.

One of the greatest strengths of this book is the questions it brings forward. The prose is written so that every word means something, every syllable laced with purpose. All of the words are geared to bring you into this dreadful, damned landscape of too much science, too much modification, too much drugs and excess, too much suffering and greed. There’s just way too much pain, and trying to find solace and spirituality through a world burned alive seems like a fleeting task, especially for science.

But oh…they sure try to find the human soul. And they claim it’s a gene at that.

Whether they find it or not, I’ll leave that for you to read for yourself. But it’s definitely a book worth reading. It will leave you with some interesting ideas to ponder, and make you very uncomfortable at times. 

You can also read this review on Goodreads

About the Author
Anderson O’Donnell presents a biopunk, dystopian noir-esque thriller in this amazing read, KINGDOM. Most people are familiar with the term “cyberpunk,” but “biopunk” is harder to nail down. In many ways, biopunk is similar to the cyberpunk genre, and shares many of the same themes and archetypes: the dystopian future; the overreliance on technology; mega-corporations; a constant and overwhelming flow of data; the anti-hero—these elements are integral parts of both genres.

Both genres are fueled, to some extent, by the sense of rebellion and desire for individual freedom expressed by the original punk rock revolution. But the main difference—the most important difference—is that while cyberpunk focuses on invasive technological modification of the human body, biopunk explores the dehumanizing consequences of biological modification, of re-arranging our DNA in the pursuit of perfection.

Anderson lives in Connecticut with his wife and 2 sons. Anderson himself deems Kingdom as “a thrill-a-minute, bio-punk myth that manages to wrestle with the most pressing issues of the new millennium. O’Donnell has crafted a kickass novel of tomorrow night, when the big party gets raided by the monsters we’ve been building for the last half-century.”

His debut novel, Kingdom, a dystopian, biopunk thriller, is now available in paperback and ebook format. Kingdom is the first part of the Tiber City Trilogy. Look for part two, Exile, in the summer of 2013.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for review from First Rule Publicity from the author as part of a virtual book tour. I was not compensated nor was I required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


  1. Awesome AMAZING REVIEW *sniffle* your blog tour cherry has now been popped (snickering) THANKS Gorgeous! You are a stellar and top notch reviewers of not just movies and other horror stuff, but books too!

    1. Wow, thank you so much for the compliment! I do put a lot of work into my reviews. Glad I did not disappoint you! <3

  2. A great review and thanks for being our first. I hope it was as special for you as it is for us :)

  3. It was indeed a splendid experience! Thank you guys for having me. :)


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