Friday, January 9, 2015

Mark of the Beast by Adolphus Anekwe ***

  WARNING: This review is based on a pre-publication UNCORRECTED ADVANCED READING COPY. Quotations cited might not appear in the final published version.

Mark of the Beast by Adolphus A Anakwe accepts one of the grandest writing challenges: rewriting a story of the past. William Shakespeare famously borrowed many of his plots from the stories of antiquity and The Walt Disney Studios borrowed many pubic-domain stories before public domain became something of the past. In this case Anakwe seems to be adapting the short story Minority Report by the master story-teller Philip K Dick.

In the shadow of Minority Report, Mark of the Beast explores the implications of a genetic marker for "individuals who are predisposed or predestined to become criminals," and we are not taking pretty theft and parking tickets. These are serial killers of the most horrendous type. If this is your particular interest, I can recommend the book just for the depictions of serial killers.

A reader's trust is important in speculative fiction, and depending on the reader, often a delicate thing. Early in this book, one of the researchers, Dr. Dickerson, designed an experiment with one hundred subjects "to ease mathematical calculations." Well, for the last several decades, such calculations have been done by computers that don't care one way of another about the number of subjects. Unfortunately, this colored by reading of the rest of the scientific details where I was less informed, but now skeptical.

Much 21st century news and politics are lost in the confusion between correlation and causation. This novel builds on this confusion by constantly conflating causation and correlation. These two very different concepts are used interchangeably. Even more troubling, the scientists in story jump from tendency (a weak form of correlation or causation) to predestination. Unfortunately for the novel and the world of the novel, no one seems to be concerned by this.

Instead of investigating of causation or mechanism of action, the scientists (and others) in this novel depend on the Book of Revelations, and some dubious numerology connecting their genetic marker, HLA B-66, with the Mark of the Beast 666. In addition to scripture and numerology, scientists also believe in predestination, suggesting this book might be better classified as Occult Fiction, not Science Fiction.

While the premise of this novel (genetic markers for serious criminals) might be questionable, the story is a fast read, and for those interested in horrendous crimes, many examples are included.

I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway on December 15, 2014. I received my copy on December 19, 2014 - way to go Tor Books.

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