Hello humans! Today I’m reviewing the much anticipated new novel from Robert Muchamore. I read a few of the Cherub books when I was a young teen and enjoyed the first few – I actually stopped reading them out of annoyance rather than just drifting away (as I did with a lot of series at that age). The toxic masculinity of it all became a little too much for me and I had to walk away. You’ll see why that becomes relevant later. But I came into this book with a fresh perspective, I was ready to be dazzled by a semi-dystopian narrative with gene-hacking, viral threats and romance (some of my favourite things) – but how did it go?
Our world is about to change in ways we can barely imagine. KILLER T is a novel about growing up in that world.
Harry and Charlie are teenagers whose lives are shaped by a society that’s shifting around them. He is a lonely Brit in his first term at a Las Vegas high school. She is an unlikely friend, who gets accused of mixing a batch of explosives that blew up a football player.
The two of them are drawn together at a time when gene editing technology is starting to explode. With a lab in the garage anyone can beat cancer, enhance their brain to pass exams, or tweak a few genes for that year-round tan and perfect beach body. But in the wrong hands, cheap gene editing is the most deadly weapon in history. Killer T is a synthetic virus with a ninety per-cent mortality rate, and the terrorists who created it want a billion dollars before they’ll release a vaccine.
Terrifying. Romantic. Huge in scope. A story for our times.
I liked the ideas behind this story, I thought that the scale of events was very clever. Much like with books like Handmaid’s Tale, part of the intrigue is how quickly things can change or fall apart, in this case you follow the lives of these two characters as the world drastically changes around them. In this case it’s actually the pace at which technology changes crossed with the pace at which society ‘collapses’ that makes things even more interesting. Conceptually, therefore, this book was sound. I have a special place in my heart for stories that involve some kind of gene hacking (This Mortal Coil is still the best example I’ve found) because I think it throws up some interesting ethical and technological questions that can really stretch a setting to be even more detailed.
So what was my problem? Why did I end up giving this book two stars? I have to blame Harry, the male protagonist. When the story started I was pretty ok with him, the young and intelligent outsider befriending the girl who is unjustly in trouble was a little stale but I don’t have a problem with it in principle. However, as the story progressed he got more and more unlikable, to the point where I didn’t want to read his perspective any more because it was simultaneously testosterone fuelled bravado and also whining. I was taken right back to the moments where I got fed up with Cherub and I realised that Robert Muchamore may just not be the author for me. In the interest of being balanced, which is almost always my goal in a book review, I have to point out that I’m not averse to male protagonists as a whole, I don’t find them impossible to relate to, and I am sure that there are a lot of aspects of Harry’s character that younger male readers will relate to more than I did. I can respect the intended audience in this case. But I didn’t feel like a lot of the problematic aspects of Harry’s character were really called out? I felt like he wasn’t made to grow as a person, to learn and to develop, despite the huge time jumps in this story. Perhaps that was just my reading of it, but I would have liked to warm to him, and instead I found myself not caring.
Charlie I liked, Charlie can stay. I thought this was a great example of how the system can fail people, very fitting for the current climate. Had this entire book been from Charlie’s perspective I think I would have felt very differently about the story as a whole.
As I say, this book did some interesting things, it posed some important questions and I can see in my mind’s eye the exact type of person this was written for, unfortunately that person isn’t me. I needed more character development, more plot that wasn’t just characters making poor choices, more heart (because an insta-love romance that gets progressively more possessive does not constitute heart). I think this book had potential, and I think that it will be an enjoyable read for many, but I cannot wholeheartedly recommend it.
My rating: ⅖ stars
I received a digital advanced review copy of this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
What say you? Did you read any Muchamore when younger? What do you think of this new book? Let me know in the comments below.