In Canter’s (Down to Heaven, 2012) latest novel, a mysterious young woman escapes from a high-tech military research lab.
Redstone Military Laboratories in New Mexico harbors a secret in its Biohazard Level Four Isolation Unit. It houses Project Second Nature, aka Gen, a young, female, genetically modified test case who’s kept isolated and quarantined at all times by order of Redstone’s sadistic ramrod commander, Col. Jack Eberhard. Gen naturally dislikes Eberhard, whose unspeaking scrutiny makes her feel like “his prize goldfish.” For years, Eberhard has been performing brutal experiments on Gen, constantly testing her body’s near-infinite ability to heal and regenerate itself, starting with minor wounds and amputations all the way up to extensive trauma, as when she’s blasted with Napalm. Gen’s mitochondria have been infused with advanced “nanites” that give her incredible control over her cellular functions; she refers to the multiple “voices” of her vast genetic potential as the “Abundance,” with which she experiences a kind of inner dialogue. That uncanny ability has Col. Eberhard worried that he’s accidentally created a new kind of god. His plan is to leave Gen in the middle of the desert and convince President Jane Campion to authorize a nuclear strike against her. “Why couldn’t I have gotten hit with something easy,” the president thinks, “like the Cuban Missile Crisis?” With the help of a friendly scientist, Gen escapes to the ocean, where she genetically morphs into a dolphin and joins a friendly pod. In the form of a dolphin, she encounters idealistic dolphin scientist Cade Seaborne, and when she morphs into human form to join him, the process leaves her face mysteriously disfigured. As the two learn more about each other in some of the novel’s most touching scenes, Eberhard continues his hunt for Gen, intent on destroying her. Canter once again demonstrates his first-rate ear for dialogue, as well as a knack for nonstop pacing and a thoroughly convincing scientific grounding. Characters relate to one another in dramatic but believable ways, and the book’s large amount of exposition—on everything from nanotechnology to cetacean biology—is smoothly integrated into the fast-paced narrative.
Confidently told sci-fi sure to reel in adventure fans.