Tag Archives: biological weapons

THE MOTHER CODE: a sci-fi novel

 

 

Carole Stivers
Berkley Press
2020
Science Fiction
ARC from Netgalley

★★★★☆

Excerpt from Amazon Book Synopsis 

What it means to be human –and a mother– is put to the test in Carole Stivers’ debut novel set in a world that is more chilling and precarious than ever.

It’s 2049, and the survival of the human race is at risk. Earth’s inhabitants must turn to their last resort: a plan to place genetically engineered children inside the cocoons of large-scale robots—to be incubated, birthed, and raised by machines. But there is yet one hope of preserving the human order—an intelligence programmed into these machines that renders each unique in its own right—the Mother Code.

The Apocalypse Begins

December 20, 2049.
The US military, beleaguered in the long war against terrorism and following secret orders, deployed an air drop of deadly nano bots, NANS, in a remote area of Afghanistan. The intended target – the lungs of Afghan terrorists residing in a desolate area. Due to the remote location, the deployment was deemed a low risk for inhalation by persons outside the kill zone. The NANs that were not inhaled were programmed to fall to the ground and become inert.  U.S. military scouts found the bodies; the mission deemed a success.

The high fives were short lived as a rapid-onset virus began spreading through the country. The U.S. powers-that-be turned to the scientists that created the NANs for help. Their nano-tech scientists, having reported that the NANs had not been fully vetted for use, had been kept in the dark about the deployment. Suddenly it was a deadly race to determine if the NANs could be stopped before it turned into a pandemic. But you can’t put the genie back in the bottle.

In their search for answers, the scientists found the only way to survive the NANs would be to alter the human genetic code. It was possible to create embryos with altered DNA but it was impossible to use human surrogate mothers to birth and raise the children. There wasn’t time.

A small doomsday project set aside long ago was dusted off and put into production. “Mother” robots would be used to perform all the functions of a human mother from carrying the embryo through fetal stages to birth. Socializing, educating, and protecting the children would continue until they had reached self-sufficiency. Reminded me of that early Superman movie where the baby Kal-El is given all the knowledge of his ancestors and information about his new home -Earth.

The story is well told traveling back and forth in time until reaching an equilibrium – the vestiges of mankind receding but the memories and knowledge of the past alive in the Mother Code and her human offspring. The characters are interesting and believable. It was simply told in a manner that seemed more like a Young Adult book but nonetheless engaging.  Inherent in the story are questions of morality and spirituality that challenge the reader to question things.

Reviewer’s Thoughts

As I neared the end of the book, the news of the corona virus broke out in the real world. It knocked me back on my heels. Are there plans in the works now that we don’t know about to sustain human life beyond a pandemic?

Consider the scenario where we would relinquish care and raising of children to robots. I realized it was very possible. Think about it. We don’t even have to parallel park our cars any more. SIRI provides answers to questions that used to require humans to think for themselves. How many people do you know that rely solely on their phones for everything.

Finally, it wasn’t scary but maintained a positive and uplifting message. Those characters facing their own mortal end find the strength to put the future ahead of their own demise. Hurrah! And there’s a secret in the story that I won’t reveal. Find it for yourself!

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American War: A Novel

American War : A Novel

by Omar El Akkao

Knopf | 2017
Hardcover: 352 pages
ISBN: 978-0-451-49358-3
Genre: Dystopian Fiction

ARC e-book from Netgalley and publisher in exchange for review

★★★★☆

Omar El Akkad is an Egyptian-born Canadian journalist who has reported on the war in Afghanistan, the Arab Spring uprising, and the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States.

NPR Author Interview

Contemporary American Political Climate

In the current American political climate, split between two extremes for the most part, much of the book will seem prescient. This is a reminder that the book is a novel; a story; not alternative facts. It is not an easy book to read, and for some readers, the topic too emotional or draining to handle at this time. I would recommend reading this with an open and questioning mind

Novel’s Background

It’s 2075. America is beset by flooding linked to climate change and the coastal states have lost significant if not all of their landmass. Washington D.C. was devastated by flooding and the northern capital is now in Columbus, Ohio. World wide temperatures have soared and the continental US experiences unbearable heat. Coastal states have water supplies polluted with salt water and irrigation and agriculture has disappeared.

The US Congress passed a bill prohibiting the use of fossil fuels “in response to decades of adverse climate effects, the waning economic importance of fossil fuels”. The southern states rebelled  to protect the waning coal mining industry and to preserve their southern traditions. The protests led to violence and the assassination of the President.

South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi seceded from the Union in 2074 and formed The Free Southern States (FSS) with it’s capital in Atlanta.

Millions of displaced citizens, some from the ravages of nature and others victims of partisan militias, have been forced into refugee camps. The south, now unable to resupply from the north and western states, is reliant on foreign assistance for food and goods. A rabid civil war, using biological and conventional weapons, raged for the next 20 years.

Story’s Focus

Amid this cacophony of war, we follow the Chestnut family through the nightmare. We meet the twins, Sarat and Dana; polar opposites. Dana, beautiful and admired -ever the family princess is contrasted with Sarat, inquisitive, introverted, furious and observant- over-sized in both body and mind. Simon, the typical teenage boy, is caught up in gangs and searching for his place in this war of against humanity. When their father attempts to take the family north for a better life, he is murdered. The children and their mother are forced into Camp Patience, a misnomer if there ever was one.

At this point the story focuses on Sarat in a story that starts out like Katniss in the Hunger Games as she stalks the edges of mental and physical confinement and ends in unimaginable horror. As we follow Sarat through the years at Camp Patience, we meet evil in the person of Albert Gaines. Gaines slowly and carefully uses Sarat’s anger and fury at the cruel deaths and injuries inflicted on her family to mold her into the perfect weapon for his cause.

Sarat’s radicalization should scare the bejesus out of the reader. If you think your child could resist the pressures of a crafty weasel posing as the answer to their mental confusion about the world- think again. And as Sarat carries out her final mission, the truth of how easy it would be to find this same horror in our own time will rock your world.

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