Saturday, January 24, 2015

Sims - F. Paul Wilson

    2003; 414 pages.  New Author? : Yes.  Genre : Suspense-Thriller; Cri-Fi.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    Oh, the possibilities of genetic engineering.  You can manipulate the genes of a chimpanzee to make something bigger, smarter, less hairy, and not so …well… chimp-looking.  But be careful to do these modifications to a limited extent so there’s no question that this new creature is still an animal, not a human.  To emphasize that distinction, let's call them “Sims”.

    At best, a sim will be a pet.  Or a work animal that can be trained to do certain menial jobs – maids, caddies, unskilled laborers, etc.  Since they’re less than human, they will legally be viewed as property.  Plus an exceptionally cheap labor source.  And since the company SimGen is the only company that knows how to make this "product", they are sitting on a corporate goldmine.

    But take care, SimGen.  Because for a new species in a new environment, adaptation can be a rapid process, no matter how much effort you make to keep every Sim docile, neutered, and identical.  You might be surprised at how fast your cranially-challenged critters can smarten up.

What’s To Like...
    The book is fast-paced, without any slow spots.  The requisite info dumps about genetic engineering are smoothly blended into the storyline.  The chapters are short, and the whole narrative is well-structured; the tension builds slowly and inexorably to a suspenseful conclusion.

    I liked the protagonist – Patrick Sullivan.  He is by trade a lawyer, but his simple legal motion pulls him into the violence and intrigue when things quickly escalate.  Yet his character is believable; when the rough stuff unfolds, don’t expect him to go all Rambo on the baddies.

    There are a bunch of mysteries for the reader to mull over.  What is SIRG?  What does “kree-“ mean?  Why is the one co-owner of SimGen acting so weird?  And most important of all, who the heck is Zero?  FWIW, I felt sure I had his identity pegged.  I was wrong.

    There are some cusswords and a couple adult situations, but nothing lurid.  The bad guys and the good guys play a keen cat-&-mouse game with each other, with each getting some surprise shots in.  There’s a smidgen of romance, but not enough to scare off male readers.  Sims is a standalone novel with a good ending.  There are a few loose ends that could be developed into a sequel, but frankly it’s not a necessity.

Kewlest New Word...
Pogue (n.) : military slang for non-combat, staff, and other read-echelon or support units who don’t have to undergo the stresses that the infantry does.  (pejorative, and pronounced "pog")
Others : Aborning (v.); Lumpen (adj.)

    “Life is chemistry, nothing more, nothing less.  When the chemicals are reacting, life goes on.  When the reactions stop, so does life.  That’s it, and that’s all it is.  I am a collection of reacting chemicals; so are you; so are sims.  To view existence as anything else is mysticism, romanticism, a myriad of other isms, but it isn’t real.  Only the chemistry is real.  Everything else is self-delusion.”  (loc. 764)

    “Duke?” Ponytail said.  He placed the inoculator kit on the coffee table next to the recorder and retrieved the pistol from under his suit coat.  “Duke, are you okay?”
    No answer from the bedroom.
    Ponytail edged toward the doorway, pointing his pistol at Romy’s head.  “I don’t know what kind of shit’s going down here, but if anything untoward happens, you go first.”
    The first thought that ran through Patrick’s mind was, Untoward?  Did he really say untoward?  (loc. 5408)

Kindle Details...
    Sims sells for $7.99 at Amazon.  F. Paul Wilson has dozens of other books available for the Kindle, ranging in price from $2.99 to $9.99, including a slew of novels from his Repairman Jack series.

“A sim union?  Have you been nipping at the aftershave, Tome?”  (loc. 210)
    Besides all the thrills and spills in Sims, there is a fascinating sociological question raised : How sapient must a given species be before we talk to them instead of killing and eating them?

   Science Fiction has looked at this issue as well.  H. Beam Piper made it the central theme of his Little Fuzzy books (one of which is reviewed here).  But it also applies in the real world with species like the dolphins, whom some researchers claim are just as intelligent and sapient as humans.  Indeed, since we continue to catch and dine upon them, a case may be made that dolphins are more highly-evolved than we are.

    Food for thought; pun intended.  Sims is a worthy addition to the discussion, and perhaps more timely than the Sci-Fi books, given that the field of genetic engineering is at hand and will offer us mind-boggling possibilities in the very near future.

    8 Stars.  I didn’t really resonate with the characters, but that’s just a personal reaction.  Add ½ star if Meerm’s travails get you all choked up.

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