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James Byron Huggins
Simon and Schuster, 398 pages


James Byron Huggins
James Byron Huggins is the author of Leviathan, The Reckoning, and A Wolf Story, three bestselling action thrillers. A former soldier, cop, and award-winning journalist, he lives in Decatur, Alabama, with his wife Karen, and their two children. He is currently at work on his next novel, Hunter.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Todd Richmond

From the author of the best-selling thriller Leviathan, comes Cain, a new action thriller about the ultimate killing machine run amok. The CIA sets out to create the perfect soldier from the lifeless body of Roth Tiberius Cain. They hire Maggie Milton, a research scientist, to genetically engineer Cain to be faster and stronger than any normal human, and to have miraculous powers of healing. They embed armor within his body, making him practically invulnerable. The one thing they can't give him is a soul -- a mistake that will cost many people their lives. For when they attempt to revive Cain, they find that the perfect soulless body that they have created has been possessed by a demonic force, one of the crown princes of Hell. In Cain's body, this demon is practically indestructible and has the ultimate goal of ruling the earth. The only ones capable of stopping him are the woman who created him, a professional soldier, and a Jesuit priest. Pressed for time, they must hunt down Cain and destroy him before he destroys the world.

James Byron Huggins' style is somewhat similar to that of Clive Cussler or David Morrell. Cain is an action-packed novel filled with combat, big explosions, chases, and suspenseful confrontations. Reading this book, though, one can't help but get the feeling that it is meant to be a screenplay. This is not necessarily bad, but it means that the plot stresses action more than story, skimping on plot details. One topic that gets lots of attention, though, is weapons. Soloman, the professional soldier, uses an increasingly deadly arsenal of weapons in his attempts to destroy Cain. As he sets out:

"Give me an out-of-the-box Mylar vest with wraparound rib protection and a steel shock plat. Make sure it's less than two years old. Break out a SPAS-12 that works on semiautomatic or pump and give me five boxes of double-ought buck. Then open the munitions locker and issue me two dozen antipersonnel grenades."

"We goin' for bear, Colonel?"

"I wish."

The other area covered in a little more depth is the history and mythology of King David, modern Catholicism, demons and exorcism. He takes a few liberties, however -- I doubt that there is a secret Vatican archive in St. Michael's Cathedral in Los Angeles. But even so I'd like to hear more about his ideas of what would be in such an archive, instead of a vague reference to the hundreds of thousands of documents it contains. In Cain, the Roman Catholic Church evidently has huge resources, its own espionage service, and a secret organization of Jesuit exorcists. But again, the details are skimpy -- exactly the kind of superficial treatment you would expect in a movie, but not in a novel. There also seems to have been a conspiracy at work to bring about the possession of Cain's body by a group of Satanists. But that is never really explored in any detail in the novel.

Huggins' characters are clearly-defined and straight forward. The good guys are good and the bad guys are evil. My only complaint with them is that there aren't any big surprises. The character's actions are predictable; they "do the right thing" when you expect them to. And you can pick out who isn't going to make it to the end of the movie, ah, novel. Cain is an action thriller which some may find enjoyable. There's plenty of guns, explosions, and hand-to-hand combat to keep the story moving along, and a bit of history, conspiracy, and intrigue to fill in the plot. If you are fascinated by weapons and fighting (and like the kind of dialogue above), by all means pick up Cain today. But if it's not quite your cup of tea, you can always wait for the movie -- rumor has it that Bruce Willis has picked up the rights.

Copyright © 1997 by Todd Richmond

Todd is a plant molecular developmental biologist who has finally finished 23 years of formal education. He recently fled Madison, WI for the warmer but damper San Francisco Bay Area and likes bad movies, good science fiction, and role-playing games. He began reading science fiction at the age of eight, starting with Heinlein, Silverberg, and Tom Swift books, and has a great fondness for tongue-in-cheek fantasy Óla Terry Pratchett, Craig Shaw Gardner and Robert Asprin.

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