In the future, after another world war or two and after the United States have split into several parts-Genetic Variates are as common as different dog breeds. There are women who are genetically engineered to be great lovers, men who are engineered to do a lot of thinking, and men who are engineered to do a lot of killing. Our hero, such as he is, is a Variant 13-a Superman who is a recreated Human from twenty thousand years ago.
Th1rte3n is a long and surprisingly deep book. The idea that bad things happen when you genetically engineer people is not a new one, and it seems unlikely that anyone would go ahead with such a project in the first place. But in the days before the story starts, everyone was making Variants of one sort or another, though only a handful of the mutants get starring roles in our story.
There is a lot of backstory in Thirteen. How did this mad world come into being and why do people act the way they do? Its all in the Code of their Genes, or maybe not. Lots of conditioning as well. There is a feeling of James Cameron’s Dark Angel here, except that the world didn’t loose all it’s tech, in fact, the Mars Colony has Super Tech called Mars Tech which builds fabrics that never wrinkles and metals that can’t be pieced by old style bullets. Of course, there are Mars Tech Weapons that can cut through all defenses like a warm knife through butter.
People are killed left and right in Thirteen, including a couple of the main characters. The story opens with a 13 trapped on a space ship heading home from Mars-he wakes up too early and ends up eating the other passengers on the ship to stay alive. We follow around another 13 and watch him kill more people as he tracks down the rouge 13. The world of the future is not a safe place for Humans or the many Variants thereof.
I can already seen a movie based on Thirteen starring Vin Desil, though the character in the book is an English black man, it’s Vin’s psycho of the future that keeps popping into my head. It’s all that stuff blowing up all the time.
Because the Thireteens are Real Men, they don’t have feelings, don’t fall in love, and don’t think like Cudlips-the Mutant Slang for normal humans. There is also a taste of the Eugenics Wars from Star Trek here, as well as a Brave New World. But it is all done with a more modern flare and more of the feel of a summer blockbuster than a diatribe on human rights. It seems that in the future Human Kind can’t wage war any more as they have all been “feminized” and brain washed into thinking killing each other is a bad thing. So they go to the labs and whip out Lawmen and Project Osprey and voila! fighting men are born again.
As with all stories like this, the weapons are great until you don’t need them to kill each other any more, than what do you do with them? Ship as many off to Mars as possible seems to be the answer in the world of Thirteen. Cage all the rest you can find. Then hunt them down and them kill them when they escape. Of course, 13s are tough, so it takes a lot of fire power, or another 13 to kill one.
There are a lot of Variants running around in our story and you really can’t tell the players without a scorecard-which you are never given. We are told bits and pieces of the story of the US Lawman Program and the British Osprey Program which are the main Variant 13s we met in the story. The Sex Enhanced Women are called Bovarys, and there don’t seem to be Sex Enhanced Men in the story, but there are at least 13 Variants, so we can guess that they are out there.
The real threat of the 13s and the Variants in general is that they will have children of their own and Take OVer The World. The normal humans don’t want this to happen, so they have locked away all the 13s they can find and chemically sterilized them all. I’m not clear about the 13s sent to Mars, a colony made of people that can’t breed isn’t going to do too well.
Thirteen is an interesting book. The Un-United States are The Rim States on the West Coast, Jesusland in the middle, and The Republic on the upper East Coast. Seems that Texas is its own Country as well, though it is only mentioned in passing. The Jesusland freaks are the main normal bad guys in the story. Bible Thumping inbreeds who are happy that The South has Risen Again. It would be a hell on earth to live in this Jesusland and it seems impossible for real morons to actually run a country. Just about every country in Africa is a strong case in point. But it is fun to read about.
I listened to the audio book of thirteen and was really impressed with the reader Simon Vance. This was a tour de force of accents and men and women and it was preformed brilliantly. A good reader can bring a book to life, and Simon Vance brought 13 to life.
Richard K Morgan must have watched a lot of old movies when he was researching Real Men-there is a sort of Clint Eastwood/John Wayne/Robert Redford/Al Pacino feel to it. It was an old style story where people die and there it isn’t clear that there will be a sequel. I like that. I miss the days when writers wrote new books and not endless series. Thirteen was a good book.