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It is a military sci-fi that doesn't include weapon-porn (so we are not subjected to what size rounds fit in which type of gun, nor how many revolutions ammunition might make in a gun barrel, or the armour penetration per inch by weapon type, etc). I like military-ish fiction that doesn't include gun/military enthusiasts' fantasies, so this book fit the bill for me.
Sure, some of the military stuff was glossed over, and some of the sci-fi was glossed over... and really, it wasn't all that sci-fi-y. It's almost like a straight up "look, I survived an atrocious war even though I came out scarred" novel. There was nothing in it that is outside the current realm of possibility: although some of the tech might not actually exist yet, the theories behind the tech does.
But the book isn't really even about war, it's about the people impacted by war...
The main character isn't a soldier. And that means we get to see a very long war from an alternative point of view. I also think it allowed Oscar to be better written, and more humanized than he would have been if he was a proper soldier. i.e. there was no real harm in him being high as a kite in the midst of battle since he wasn't really supposed to be there anyway.
The story is actually one of growth and maturity: it's the maturation of one man - because of, or in spite of, a horrendous war background. There is some (not overly moralistic) message about how war scars people psychologically, and how our veterans may not receive the respect and help they require after returning... particularly in circumstances where the "war" has slipped from the front page.
The narration is fine. Surprisingly, there is not much gore or swearing, and there is no detailed sex. The story is wrapped up completely at the end.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Intense and brutal, Germline is a totally absorbing military SF novel. It is also difficult to describe. It reminds me a lot of the stories that came out of World Wars 1 and 2 in that it is not about glory and has very little heroism. It is more about the ultimate hopelessness of war and the physical and mental destructiveness, even for those who survive.
The term "germline" refers to genetically engineered soldiers who form an important part of the fighting forces. However, to me that isn't what the story is about. It is a grim, grim story of battle and it is also a story about friendship and caring.
The main protagonist is Oscar Wendall, a reporter for Stars and Stripes. He has a drug problem and sees his career spiraling downward. He hopes that an assignment to the front will let him redeem himself. That isn't how things work out. Instead, he finds himself trying to survive in the midst of a brutal, all-out, no-holds-barred struggle -- a struggle in which his own personal demons come out to haunt him.
In the hands of a less skillful writer, this story would be a caricature of war. But, T.C. McCarthy pulls it off very well.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful