Near-future biological horror from the talented, versatile British author of Whole Wide World (2002), etc.
Perhaps 30 years from now, Africa has been ravaged by “gengineered” products ranging from the playful—butterflies whose wings bear corporate logos—to deadly plagues like Black Flu and the plastic disease; gene hackers have re-created extinct animals like saber-toothed tigers and four-tusked elephants; in the huge, mysterious Dead Zone, the trees have, literally, melted. Obligate, an environmentally conscious transnational, controls the Congo, where former soldier Nick Hyde, now working for the aid concern Caritas, goes to investigate a reported massacre by rebel troops, only to find the bodies mutilated as if by wild animals, the livers and brains ripped out and eaten. Soon Nick and his companions are attacked by fast, vicious, apelike white devils-creatures smart enough to learn how to use guns. Nick barely escapes. He will team up with courageous journalist Harmony Boniface, eventually learning—despite a lethally heavy cover-up attempt—that the creatures were an attempt to re-create Australopithecus by reverse-engineering chimpanzee DNA. The three scientists involved were Matthew Faber (his mind schizophrenically shattered, he now observes the Gentle People, nonaggressive cousins of the white devils), vanished mind-control expert Danny Lovegrave, and Faber's ex-wife Teryl Meade, currently an Obligate bigwig—and prepared to do anything to conceal her involvement. Meanwhile, Faber's archaeologist daughter, Elspeth, has uncovered firm evidence of cannibalism among direct human ancestors; and survivalist-religious fanatic Cody Corbin has taken it upon himself to destroy the abominations and their makers.
Apart from the tough-slog present-tense narrative and sheer density of detail: McAuley's heart-of-darkness is as bleak, scarifying, persuasive, and terrible as it gets.