I write. This blog is the home of samples of my writing and articles about my journey as a literary alchemist. Also, keep an eye out for book and podiobook reviews, and maybe eventually guest articles. Find me on Facebook and on Twitter @afgrappin.
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Saturday, January 10, 2015
Book Review Triple Feature: 7th Son Trilogy by J.C. Hutchins
7th Son: Descent
A four-year-old boy assassinated the president. Shortly after, seven men from around the United States were abducted in the middle of the day. These seven men are about to learn that not only do they share the same name, but they share the same DNA. All seven are clones of John Michael Smith, known as John Alpha. They are the beta stage for the 7th Son Project. They weren't supposed to meet, but the scientists who created them need them all now. John Alpha was thought to be dead, but that's apparently not true. John Alpha is alive, and he's been using the technology from the 7th Son project to cause some serious problems that could destroy the world.
As America reels from the bizarre presidential assassination committed by a child, seven men are abducted from their normal lives and delivered to a secret government facility. Each man has his own career, his own specialty. All are identical in appearance. The seven strangers were not born, but grown — unwitting human clones — as part of a project called 7th Son.
The government now wants something from these “John Michael Smiths.” They share the flesh as well as the implanted memories of the psychopath responsible for the president’s murder. The killer has bigger plans, and only these seven have the unique qualifications to track and stop him. But when their progenitor makes the battle personal, it becomes clear John Alpha may know the seven better than they know themselves...
7th Son is set in the early 2000s, so not too long ago. Of course, considering it is a few years old at this point, it was set a few years in the future when it was first put out in the world. It falls well into the realm of possibility, too. We know cloning works. How long ago was Dolly the sheep cloned? Who's to say that the government or some private sector researchers haven't secreted some human cloning techniques from the public eye? I don't see why this couldn't be happening under our noses right now. No, I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I'm just saying that all this could be happening right now.
Hutchins's writing is crisp and enjoyable. He has a talent for comparisons that makes me think of J. Daniel Sawyer in how well I enjoy a lot of the similies he uses. The differences in his characters is wel done, and it's a necessity for a book like this. With seven characters (eight, if you count John Alpha) all being the same person with the same name, it is crucial for there to be distinct differences in manner and speech patterns, but they still have to be reminiscent of one another. All the clones have the same memories for the first 14 years of their lives. That isn't something that can be overlooked. Just the fact that they all go by different names: John, Jonathan, Jack, Mike, Michael, etc. is brilliant. Their different life paths have made them different men, but the similarities are striking. I'm in awe of how Hutchins managed to make one man so different from himself... eight times.
There is a lot to enjoy in 7th Son: Descent. There are mind puzzles that had me thinking. There are revelations and moments of emotion that tugged at me, leaving me shocked, angry, and sympathetic. There was action, psychology, and something for just about everyone, honestly. I did have a little trouble at first, getting to know all the clones, and there are still one or two that I get mixed up a little too easily. I don't know if that's really intentional or not, or if it may just be a result of the cast being so largely comprised of what's essentially the same person. I almost feel like two of the clones could have been removed from the story and things would be okay... but I suppose 5th Son doesn't have the same ring as 7th Son. I look forward to listening to the other books in this series and seeing if that issue disappears for me.
Would I Recommend This Book? Very much so! 7th Son: Descent had me from the start to the end, and it's a quick read/listen. Things didn't get dragged out, and even the fill-me-in moments (I wouldn't quite call them "infodumps") were engaging. The variety of characters, even with the limitations Hutchins set for himself with the whole clone thing, is masterful. I give 7th Son: Descent a NEPTH-charged 4 out of 5 stars.
7th Son: Deceit
The clones have managed to accomplish their first mission together, the rescue of their mother, Dania Sheridan, from John Alpha. This did not happen without losses. Now, back at the 7th Son facility, they're trying to recuperate and deal with meeting the mother they never really knew. But when John Alpha-- another John Alpha-- infiltrates the facility, thye realize their job is far from over. Nuclear warheads are heading for the Middle East, John Alpha has sent them new clues about how to track him down... and suddenly, the clones find themselves being picked off, one by one.
Two days ago, seven human clones — John, Michael, Father Thomas, Dr. Mike, Jay, Jack and Kilroy2.0 — were torn away from their "normal" lives to stop a ruthless plot created by their progenitor, a man code-named John Alpha. Their quest was a descent into conspiracy, violence and death.
The clones were successful in their mission, but victory was not without its price.
As 7th Son: Deceit begins, the Beta clones are demoralized, reeling from their loss ... and about to learn that John Alpha's plans are far from over.
To prevent the next phase of Alpha's plan, John, Kilroy2.0 and the others must unearth more dark secrets about the government project from which they were spawned. They will experience the horrors of betrayal, and race cross-country to track John Alpha.
And they will finally realize the scope of Alpha's wrath — the bloodshed the clones have witnessed is merely a prelude to the world-rending destruction to come. Unless they can stop it first.
This... could all happen, if you ask me. The technologies in this book could very well exist in secret, and if they do, I pray that people like John Alpha don't get their hands on them. So much of this hits home, because it is set in the now. We could be living this, seeing these events. It's enought to make me turn conspiracy theorist, but I am NOT crossing that bridge. It's always a bit of a thrill for me, who usually reads and writes novels set in worlds or times far removed from this one, to see the stories that can be set here and now. I admire those that can make such amazing stories in this world, and Hutchins nails it.
It was a little shocking to me a few times during 7th Son: Deceit to realize that the events in this book take place in the hours and days following the first book ending. It's not because the events were unbelieveable. Quite the opposite. It's because it's so torturous to the characters of the book. Hutchins is definitely a master of making likfe hell for his characters. There's so little time to rest. I'd say they were inhuman, but that's just the thing. They may be clones, but they are still men, and that... is just mind-boggling. People really are capable of things like this, to act as they do, on no sleep, still being as noble as they can in their defense of the world.
The issues I had in the first book, with feeling like two of the clones were easily mixed up and could almost be done away with... yeah, gone this time around. In fact, one of the two I really didn't care much for before has become one of my favorites. He really started to shine this book, and I'm so glad he did!
7th Son: Deceit is a fitting sequel to 7th Son: Descent. Honestly, I enjoyed it more than the first book. The puzzles from book one are followed by even better ones here, and it's a blast to try and solve them myself as the clones are... only to find out that yes, I'm on the right track, but I just don't take it far enough. Then again, the puzzles are intended specifically for the clones' expertise, and since I don't have that, it isn't a surprise. I do get bits and pieces right, but the whole, nope. And I don't mind. These puzzles are a mental thrill in the action and, if you ask me, do not take away from the narrative at all.
The action in this book is way ramped up compared to book one, character development jumps through the roof, and the stakes blow up. Literally. I mean, nuclear warheads. Come on. This was definitely a book of extremes, and it makes me all the more eager to read the third installment.
Would I Recommend This Book? Highly. This book was even more mentally stimulating and action-packed than its predecessor, and it really brings out the threat level for not only characters, but the world. The cast, while technically large, really only consists of a few, since John Alpha has access to NEPTH-charge and the newly revealed Psyjack technologies. You won't regret reading this. I give 7th Son: Deceit a Psyjacked 4 out of 5 stars.
7th Son: Destruction
The last surviving clones of John Alpha are finished playing Alpha's game. No more puzzles, no more clues. Those were just bait, just a way for them to die one after another. The clones are on to John Alpha's real scheme now, and it's not as simple as they thought. The nuclear warheads were just the beginning. Now, they've got to infiltrate the United Nations to save delegates from the entire world. The first problem is that the one clone that actually was employed by the UN, Jonathan, is dead. And even this is just the beginning. Unknown to the clones, a number of Alpha's followers have low-grade nuclear weapons secreted all over the map. And they're ready to detonate.
As day four in the 7th Son adventure begins, John Alpha's quest for anarchy and genocide enters its final stage.
At every turn, the global terrorist has been triumphant. The world is reeling from a nuclear attack. An unprecedented energy crisis is upon us. Alpha himself has exclusive access to the White House, and secret weapons primed to propel his conspiracy into the endgame. The goal: planetary chaos.
Amidst this turmoil, the 7th Son project's four surviving Beta Clones — John, Father Thomas, Kilroy2.0 and Jack — must defy their creators and hunt Alpha on their terms. Their mission: to stop the greatest assassination plot in history. The secrets John and his brothers discover will press them toward a final battle with their progenitor ... a battle in which the clones are outgunned, outnumbered and out of time.
Alliances will be made. Heroes will die. The end is nigh.
The baffling tearing up of the world continues, and I was a little shocked to wake up this morning and see that things were normal. I don't want to say that 7th Son: Destruction is too realistic, but it's definitely unsettling to see places I've been or at least know of being blown up, attacked, or invaded by bad guys. There's just enough of a pinch of disbelief to keep it from getting too real, but holy cow, does this make for a great ride. Part of me wants to go to the UN for a tour or something, just to see the place for myself. And the places bombed in the last book... yeah, they're still there. Good to know.
No, I am NOT turning paranoid like Kilroy2.0!
With the mind games over, Hutchins really gets to shine with the action and intensity of this novel. And he blows it out of the park on this one. Action and I have a tenuous relationship, but I could read Hutchins's action scenes all day long. Or... listen to them, since I listened to all three of these 7th Son books through podiobooks.com.
He is masterful at putting his characters in mortal danger, he's the king of the cliffhanger, and I couldn't help but flinch, cringe, and adjust my seat uncomfortably at what he puts his characters through. Even better, I cried (or came close to crying) twice during 7th Son: Destruction. It's not all about the threats and imminent death. He knows how to make a truly heartwrenching moment, and I was pleasantly surprised even as I held back tears.
7th Son: Destruction was a fitting close to this trilogy. Personally, I think my favorite book was the second, but that's not to say I didn't enjoy Destruction. Believe me, I did. I was riveted, often literally on the edge of my seat while I listened to the book at work. Loose ends are tied up, everything is explained brilliantly, without any of that James Bond villain-esque monologuing. Hutchins worked his way around that splendidly.
A little bit of a spoiler-- I could have done without the whole Nazi thing. I think this might just be me being a little jaded, and I get why Hutchins brought that tie into the whole 7th Son project as a catalyst for it, but I see the "bringing back the Third Reich" thing a little too often. There are better villains out there. This was better than most incarnations I've seen, but I still had a little bit of a "oh, come ON" moment, even while I was enjoying the last third or so of the book.
Would I Recommend This Book? Muchly. The trilogy rounds out nicely, leaving the reader with a good sense that things will be all right, if not ideal, as things move on. The epilogue made me extremely happy, as it gave me some hope... I won't say any more on that. I give 7th Son: Destruction a conspiratorial 4 out of 5 stars.
The whole 7th Son trilogy gets a cloned 4 out of 5 stars.