War World by Rod C. Spence

Six teenagers square off against impossible odds and remorseless aliens in a desperate attempt to rescue parents marooned on a distant planet in War World, one of this year’s most creative and entertaining novels.

Author Rod C. Spence has created  a frighteningly plausible scenario in which titanic biotech companies battle viciously for control over mankind’s future. And a half dozen so-called “TerraGen Kids” — so named for their parents affiliation with the company that created the Portal to the planet Genesis — are right in the thick of things, dodging death across space and time in a highly cinematic storyline.

Early on, Jeremy Austin and best friend Patrick Korrapati narrowly escape the hungry maw of a genetically engineered super soldier, only to find there are still more fearsome creatures willing to deal out torture and death in a heartless quest to get what they want — an invaluable scientific diary belonging to Jeremy’s dad.

As the book unfolds, Jeremy, Patrick and the rest of the TerraGen Kids — Marissa, Selene, Leo, and Alex — pack their gear for a trip through the Portal — a wormhole to the planet Genesis, where TerraGen officers went to set up shop months ago, away from prying government eyes. It didn’t turn out well, as the teens and a small army of mercenaries hired as “protection” quickly discover. They cross the celestial void to find a world that is terrifyingly hostile and teeming with its own primordial conflicts.

Perilous adventures abound on Genesis, where the teens quickly become separated from their protectors and move into survival mode. They fight against a dizzying mix of eerily intelligent Neolithic monsters, predatory aliens, and an evil Gnome-King who answers to an even darker lord.

The teenaged wisecracking dialogue is spot-on, never lagging or stereotypical. These are kids straight out of any high school in America, with the same achingly vulnerable issues that are the province of that age. They care deeply for each other — even in the midst of withering sarcasm and rapier ripostes often uttered in the throes of a dangerous encounter with prehistoric beasts or vicious alien predators.

And much of the author’s turns-of-phrase in the book are priceless as well:

“Their experiments made the Nazis look like compassionate health care workers.” And,
“If the Grim Reaper wore a suit, this man would be his twin.” And,
“He looked like a little boy who just found out Santa Claus was a serial killer.”

There’s a surprise in just about every chapter of this spellbinding novel, and many of them send the story careening down completely new paths. It is deliciously unpredictable fiction from an expert storyteller who has the unsettling talent to create — and then snuff out — characters readers come to care deeply about. Between the fast-paced sci fi action, the unrelenting violence, and the superb, character-rich narrative, the book is two parts Michael Crichton and one part Stephen King.

This first installment in the War World franchise ends on a tantalizing, cliff-hanging note that’s sure to line up readers for the next book — or big screen adaptation, whichever comes first.

Five-plus stars to War World. It’s a well-written winner.

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