Chuck Grossart has brought all of his expertise as a strike planner and strategic analyst for the U.S. Air Force to the table with The Gemini Effect (previously published as The Mengele Effect). Amazon named it the 2014 Breakthrough Novel in science fiction, fantasy, and horror. I had to keep remembering to breathe when I read The Gemini Effect because once it starts, the action never stops and its content made my skin crawl. Part sci-fi horror novel and part political thriller, it was like a never-ending roller coaster of a train wreck I couldn’t look away from…not to mix metaphors or anything. For those of you who like being scared witless, this could be the vacation read you’re looking for. Let’s find out…
“We have met the enemy and he is us.” Pogo.
Scientists just can’t seem to resist fiddling with things they know nothing about, just to find out what makes them tick. Beginning during World War II and continuing into the days of the Cold War, the U.S. conducted secretive genetic experiments so it could come out on top in any future war. If the other side began a war, then the U.S. was going to win it no matter what. Now we all know it’s just that kind of escalation thinking that always gets humans into trouble. But that was a long time ago and over the decades people gradually stopped thinking about those research facilities.
Big mistake because all it took was one drop of rainwater in the wrong place and by the next morning all that was left was a dead city…an entire city that was now completely empty – or was it? What caused it to happen? And how could it happen so quickly? Was it some kind of terrorist attack? Was it a plague? WTH happened?
“The beginning of the extermination of the human race began in a salvage yard.
Under the left rear fender of what remained of a 1962 Chevrolet Nova, to be exact. A rusted shell of what was once called a Chevy II – a ‘Deuce’ to those who loved them – built at the old Kansas City GM Leeds assembly plant during the last week of November 1961…The Nova was built in a time of war – a cold war. The fear was real then, under the skin, every moment of every day. Like two bullies on the block vying for dominance, a brawl between the opposing forces was a foregone conclusion; it would happen, eventually. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe today.”
“Virulence and infectivity supplanted blast and radiation in the killing lexicon. Careful planning and controlled employment of these tiny weapons would render the MAD game obsolete. There’d be a winner and a loser.
The research had been promising – and productive – until it escaped from a clean room.
In a ’62 Deuce.”
“One particular ingredient, however, made the crucial difference. By itself, the man-made agent was simply horrid. Combined with just the right amount of other things, mixed for just the right amount of time, it became incomprehensively hellish.
Mother Nature was funny that way. Complex. Unpredictable.
And unforgiving as hell if you fucked around with her.”
Biowarfare specialist Carolyn Ridenour is sent to see if biological warfare is involved. Military troops have already been sent to the area, led by Colonel Garrett Hoffman. The government is pulling out all the stops because no one knows what they’re up against. Unfortunately, despite all of their advanced weaponry, the troops don’t stand a chance and are literally mowed down. Hundreds of soldiers are dead within minutes – swarmed over and killed by whatever is hiding deep within the shadows of the seemingly deserted city. Bullets, grenades, tanks, and bombs are useless against whatever is behind all of this.
Not only are the forces left behind on the ground horrified when they realize they’ve tried all their tricks and nothing worked but government leadership is having a meltdown, especially when night falls and the hidden hordes begin to move at a mind-bendingly rapid pace toward another city bent on murdering its citizens. There’s no way to evacuate the city in time. And no one knows how to stop this next massacre from happening. There’s nothing that can strike terror in the hearts of even the most callous Washington bureaucrat like watching an invincible deadly force move in on a city of millions, knowing the horrors awaiting all of those people.
As they sit helplessly by, knowing they’ve tried every weapon in their arsenal, the rumblings begin of what to do. It quickly becomes clear that these monsters are gaining strength and speed, and they’re evolving as they move and absorb more people. If they aren’t stopped, they will soon literally destroy the entire country from within. And that’s when quiet talk begins of doing the unthinkable – using a nuclear weapon on cities within the U.S. If Ridenour and Hoffman can’t survive long enough and can’t find a solution, there may be no other option.
I didn’t like Hoffman very much as a person, although he grew on me. My ex-husband was military, so I do know this type of person exists within the Air Force. I did like Ridenour and I liked some of the dynamics between them. Spoiler alert: I may spoil it by saying they get involved sexually; however, I felt that was more a product of the death-at-any-moment circumstances than anything else. Humans do seem to have a basic survival instinct to try to procreate when they’re facing death – makes sense if you think about it. Whatever. I’m not going to talk about any of the characters in Washington, although the debates seemed realistic, given what they were facing – horrific but realistic. As for the mutant monsters? The stuff of nightmares – you’ll have to discover them for yourself.
Let me be up front about this: The Gemini Effect has gotten mixed reviews. I got on this roller coaster knowing that this is the kind of novel for which you buy the premise you buy the bit. Much of it was really believable. The least believable thing for me was the relationship that developed between the two protagonists, because I thought Ridenour was smarter than that. And that aspect puzzles me, given how horrific and out-there the monsters are in this novel. If you like reads that will scare the crap out of you, coupled with political intrigue and non-stop often very gory action, then you might want to throw this one on your vacation TBR pile.
Can’t wait to read it?
The Gemini Effect was published on April 1, 2015, so it’s available in all formats from your favorite online bookseller below (or in the right column for iBooks). If you download it as an ebook, you can have it to read immediately!
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