[Book Review] The Killer App

The Killer App / John Writher (Powell's Books)
The Killer App is set in a future generation where Britain is crippled by an ageing population, and the associated spiraling costs of pension, health and social care. The new Prime Minister, Robert Hand, pledged to strip-search the country’s finances, as well as funding research and innovation, to remedy the situation. He teams up with Bill Haugan, a ruthless American businessman with a penchant for pushing the boundaries, and Janet Icks, a hard-working genetic scientist wedded to her laboratory. On top of the snow-covered pistes around Davos, Switzerland, the unlikely trio hatch a killer experiment designed to revolutionize society. They all have their own personal interests in the proposal – Hand wants the public vote for solving the demographic imbalance, Icks is keen to test her research to transfer DNA after death, while Haugan has designs on expanding his empire – yet the worlds of politics, big business and science become uncomfortable bedfellows in a bid to rebalance the population. All they need is someone willing to “die to be young again”. Experiment Candidate 1456 is a frustrated artist in his late thirties, depressed at what his life has become after a failed marriage. Convinced he can do better, he is thrilled to be selected for this trial regeneration and sees the proposal as an opportunity to drop off the grid and start over. Little does he know what lies ahead… Just as the experiment starts, ethical opponents sabotage proceedings and violently shatter the lives of those involved, while events unravelling from the protest leave many secrets exposed.
I absolutely love the concept of this book.  I was looking exploration of ethics, speculative technology, a complex setting, and intrigue.  The website interesting, and to be utterly honest, a little creepy.

Unfortunately I found little compelling in this story.  The plot and writing weren't polished or developed enough.  Maybe I'm asking too much, but the idea had such promise, and the tagline really is remarkably compelling for it's simplicity.  The characters felt flat, lacking depth at best, and resembling stereotypes at worst (an environmentalist/eco-terrorist with the legal birth name of Gaia among them).  Probably the most interesting figure in the book, the test subject, is an utterly unlikable character.

I was hoping for a fast-paced, techno-thriller akin to Nexus and was disappointed.  There is a build up of tension, but it's a slow, pondering with reluctant payout.  Moments of tension left me rolling my eyes rather than sitting on the edge of my seat.  The story isn't necessarily bad, it just didn't deliver what I was looking for.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of NetGalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.


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