Exogene by TC McCarthy – review

By Keith Brooke

Germline soldiers are supposed to welcome death, for they will be rewarded in Heaven. When their term of service has expired they are discharged, lined up and shot, to be replaced by a new batch. But as McCarthy's second Subterrene War novel opens, the genetically engineered soldiers, not human but not strictly speaking anything else, are starting to rebel. Some of them want to live. This future is a brutal one, with a war being fought by clones, machines and humans, and any mix of the three. Catherine, known to her fellow soldiers as Little Murderer, lives to kill, but as the day of her discharge approaches something shifts inside her, a corruption known as "the spoil", and while her body deteriorates her mind starts to question. She's a fascinating creation, an inhuman killing machine finding her own humanity. Her perspective is at once childlike and brutal, combining indoctrinated religious fervour with a cold violence, without moral qualms. Exogene is both disorienting and an effective portrayal of a protagonist with a broken mind.

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Keith Brooke

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