I’m giving this one a 5/5 rating. While not a perfect book, it is one of the most engaging reads of the year and contains some nice moral ambiguities and a realistic, flawed protagonist.
Castillo is an ex-Special Ops member who spent time in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran. He’s seen and done some bad shit. Even though he’s still struggling with serious PTSD, he is tasked by his ex-commander to help track down a group of vicious escaped serial killer clones and their spiritual leader, the geneticist Dr. Jacobson. Along the way, Castillo picks up a nice kid named Jeffrey Jacobson (son of the renegade geneticist). Jeff is a clone, and Castillo is torn by what Jeffrey could be and what he appears to be.
I expected the book to devolve into a preachy gore-fest, but the author balances issues of pre-destination, genetics, fatherhood, domestic abuse, clandestine government, and more with a deft hand.
If there is a weakness with Cain’s Blood, is that the scope of the book is a bit broad. All the characters that are introduce play important roles in the plot, but their stories can be a bit threadbare. Perhaps Girard was restricted to 320 pages this being his first major novel (Girard is well-known in genre small press circles), but Cain’s Blood would have benefited from being 400 pages, giving the author and the characters room to breath.
If you like your military thrillers to be intelligent and at times, touching, then Cain’s Blood will be a nice addition to your bookshelf.
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/cains-blood-geoffrey-girard/1113741804
Girard’s publisher is simultaneously releasing a YA novel titled Project Cain that relates the same story in Cain’s Blood from the perspective of Jeff. We hope to have a review of Project Cain in a few weeks.
Full Disclosure: I received an advance review copy of Cain’s Blood. Apex also has a bit of history with the novel. We published the novella CAIN XP11 in (now defunct) Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest upon which a part of Cain’s Blood is based.