by Gavin GrantFebruary, 2004
The devils get their due
Paul McAuley's White Devils is a near-future thrill ride from the first page to the last. Nicholas Hyde is an aid worker doing forensic post-massacre work in the Congo when his group is attacked and many are killed by a previously unknown type of primate.
Haunted by the attack, Hyde launches a quest to find out where the new species originated or was manufactured. He runs up against Obligate, a religion-based conglomerate which dominates the country, and Teryl Meade, an American scientist who was once on the cutting edge of genetic experimentation but has now publicly refuted it.
Set near the middle of the current century, White Devils extrapolates from current science headlines to envision a world where a new plague ("The Black Flu") has killed one billion people, mostly in the third world. Africa is the playground of transnationals and local warlords and, despite worldwide bans, genetic experiments have transformed the landscape. McAuley, who has a fantastic backlist of novels to his credit, is one of the best in the genre at writing these near-future near-disasters. Infused with incredible energy and suspense, White Devils should please everyone from ecologically minded Kim Stanley Robinson fans to readers of political thrillers by John Le Carré and Frederick Forsyth.
Gavin J. Grant is co-editor of The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, to be published this summer by St. Martin's Press.