Look, I really hate doling out bad reviews. Really. I want to be an author myself, and seeing my book described as shitty is not a thing that I would want. But I don't want to lie to my readers either. Geez, how hard is to write a blurb that doesn't lie?
The back cover of Germline reads as follows:
GERMLINE (n.) a secret military program to develop genetically engineered super-soldiers (slang).
War is Oscar Wendell's ticket to greatness. A reporter for the Stars and Stripes, he has a pass to the front lines of a brutal conflict over natural resources, where genetics - the germline soldiers - battle heavily armed troops deep beneath the icy, mineral-rich mountains of Kazakhstan.
But the front is nothing like Oscar imagined. The genetic soldiers are more human than he'd bargained for too. Hooked on a dangerous cocktail of drugs and adrenaline, lines are beginning to blur. And if Oscar doesn't find a way out of the chaos soon, he may never get back.
Well, okay. Maybe it didn't quite lie. But it was certainly really misleading. When I bought this book, in the science fiction section, I was expecting the titular and frequently mentioned "genetically engineered supersoldiers" to be the main focus of the book. Let's face it, genetically engineered supersoldiers are really cool. One of my first personal ideas for a scifi novel involved exactly this. (I put it on ice because I was 14 years old and didn't know anything about advanced bioengineering.) And, well, here's another confession: I originally wanted to buy the sequel to this book, which was from the perspective of one of the supersoldiers. But when I saw that it was Book 2, I figured I might as well read Book 1 first.
Now, though, I don't really feel like giving the second book a chance.
The genetic soldiers (or "Gs") are, in fact, relegated to a very small space in Germline. Despite the book's being named after them, they only make brief cameos here and there. And when they do ...
Early on, the main character - junkie reporter Oscar "Scout" Wendell - starts thinking that it's kind of sexy that these supersoldiers look just like regular (hot!!!) girls, even though they have the power to rip his head off. (They're sexy even though they're bald! Wow, how nice of you to disprove the artificially engineered murder machines' feelings of physical unworthiness.) Then, for some mystical reason, they all start taking a liking to him. (They have names; I don't really understand why. If I was their manufacturer I would just give them serial numbers.) One of them falls in love with him and wants him to bone her so that she can explore her truly human feelings. Yeah, the extent of their possible discontent with being artificial soldiers is that they want to find love. Since the Gs' term of service is short (they kill them at eighteen; ooh, creepy pedo vibes!), his girlfriend is eventually terminated. All the Gs are identical, so every time they appear after this, their only purpose (aside from the contextualization of being sent into battle here or there) is to remind Scout of his lost love. Her face, staring at him everywhere.
Last confession: I never finished Germline. Aside from this blatant conversion of the deadly soldiers (who happen to have vaginas) into a fetish, the rest of the book is really just a war story starring a guy with a drug problem. That was not what I signed up for.
I did page ahead a little, though. Later on, Scout meets another G, with the same face but a different name from his lost lady. She's in love with him too. Surprise. Paged a little further ahead. They escape the war ... get married ... and have kids.
Let's ask ourselves if fertility was a thing the supersoldiers needed? Dear Mr. Author, here's a newsflash for you: I really don't think a bunch of women on their periods are the ideal fighters. So if you were engineering them, wouldn't you, you know ... remove that function? I know I would.
I cannot get over how stupid this is. Why would you include platoons of genetically modified killing machines at all, if you're hardly going to mention their relevance beyond acting as fapping material for the main character? Why would the people who designed them not get rid of their sexual urges, or their ability to reproduce? All this does is establish them as romantic interests for the main character, and that isn't believable. The book does not go into any detail about the science behind the Gs, either, or if it does in the 100 pages I did not read, it would've been a pop-out surprise. Newsflash #2: a book is not science fiction just because it happens to take place in the future! There has to be some science involved!
And I didn't really care about what else was going on in the novel, because war stories without science fiction elements are not my thing at all.
I would recommend Germline to you if you'd like to read a story about a man, ripped apart by drugs, and his awful experiences in a terrible war. With the occasional bonus of hot killer ladysoldiers. I would not recommend it to you if you, like me, were looking for a story about the ramifications of experimental technology and the transformation of human beings into weapons. Because despite what the cover implies, it's not about that. And although the sequel, Exogene, is told from the perspective of a G, I don't feel I can trust an author who so obviously fetishizes them in his first novel. Sorry, bro. It ain't working out.
This has been a review no one cares about but if you've no essays to write me about how ridiculous it is to make this awesome badass concept into fapping fuel maybe you can tell me about something you were disappointed in idk