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Germline: The Subterrene War, Book 1
T.C. McCarthy
Narrated by Donald Corren, unabridged
Blackstone Audio, 9 hours

T.C. McCarthy
T.C. McCarthy earned a B.A. from the University of Virginia, and a PhD from the University of Georgia, before embarking on a career that gave him a unique perspective as a science fiction author. From his time as a patent examiner in complex biotechnology, to his tenure with the Central Intelligence Agency, T.C. has studied and analyzed foreign militaries and weapons systems. T.C. was at the CIA during the September 11 terrorist attacks, and was still there when US forces invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, allowing him to experience warfare from the perspective of an analyst.

T.C. McCarthy Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Dale Darlage

T.C. McCarthy's Germline is a non-stop military techno-adventure set in the middle of a war in Central Asia in the 22nd century. Russia and the United States are fighting over the resources of Kazakhstan. It turns out that the country is rich in rare metals that are needed for the 22nd century's technological devices. They have to be mined deep in the mountains of Kazakhstan and the mines, countryside, little villages and cities of Central Asia become battlefields.

Oscar Wendell is a washed-up, drug-addicted reporter for Stars and Stripes. He is the only reporter in the entire theater of war and he is not quite sure how he was picked over better-known reporters. But he is determined to make the best of his opportunity, already envisioning the Pulitzer Prize as the world's biggest story unfolds in his lap. He is given some very basic training, sent to the front, attached to a unit and outfitted with the latest gear -- a self-contained mechanized body suit that provides heat or cooling and even has a rather gruesome system of self-contained waste disposal.

I mention that system because this book excels at putting the reader (in my case, listener) at the ground level -- what famed World War II reporter Ernie Pyle the "worm's eye view." McCarthy's characters are vivid, earthy and exposed to one insane situation after another -- which they can only respond to by going crazy themselves. Some decide to drug themselves, some decide to retreat into themselves, some decide die in battle and others kill themselves. The wide-ranging battlefield leads Wendell from one complicated scenario to another as he drops all pretense of being a reporter and simply fights alongside the men he was supposed to be covering -- not because he believes in the cause but because he is so tied to these men that he cannot leave them.

An added dimension is America's introduction of genetically modified soldiers -- all identical and all grown from a test tube and all 16 to 18-year-old females (the males were too aggressive) who have been raised in an environment that worships death and sacrifice. Their bodies are programmed to begin to die at the beginning of their 18th year. The title of the book, Germline, comes from a slang term for the military program that developed these super-soldiers. Soon, the Russians have their own genetically modified soldiers (all males) and the war takes on a whole new face. Wendell decides to get close to an American "genetic" and soon finds himself falling for her despite the overt prejudice against them.

Donald Corren reads Germline and he does a great job of covering an amazing number of accents. His voice characterization of Oscar Wendell is perfect -- he is loose and jaded and wound too tight all at the same time. The only problem was his inexplicable mispronunciation of the word "corpsman" -- he pronounced it "corzman" when it is pronounced coreman.

This is a roller coaster of a read. The technology is advanced, but this is not a gizmo-based story. Instead, it is character-driven story and it is well worth the read. It is the first in a trilogy about the war that is supposed to follow the separate experiences of three different characters that interact briefly in all of the books but have their own stories.

Copyright © 2011 Dale Darlage

Dale Darlage is a public school teacher and a proud lifelong resident of the Hoosier state. He and his wife are also proud to have passed on a love of books to their children (and to the family dog that knows some books are quite tasty). His reviews on all sorts of books are posted at

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