Review of The Warning by Michelle E. Lowe
By: Michael A. Arnold

What do you think the future will look like? Our culturally shared ideas of what it will look like seems to change decade by decade, and we go through periods of optimism and pessimism. This might reflect the cultural moods of those times, especially now that the internet is so ubiquitous that what is happening in culture is more shared and seems more universal than ever before. Globalization’s effect on culture started long before the internet, but now reactions to media and perspectives are instantaneous and widespread in a way that has not happened before.

So, it is worth looking to sci-fi more and more these days: much of what was once science fiction is becoming reality, and more integrated into our daily lives. So far human clones have not been very widespread, and there is a lot of legislation against it. But it is often asked in science fiction, what if it was widespread? And also, what if they were enhanced, or created for specific purposes? This is far from a new worry or topic in science fiction, but it is a theme very much worth coming back to (much like AI) because it has so many long reaching ethical, philosophical, and practical questions that still have not been resolved.

These questions are at the heart of The Warning, a 2012 novel by Michelle E. Lowe and recently released as an audiobook through audible. It is a sci-fi thriller with (to give a bit of a reviewers’ cliché) a lot of suspense, and a twisting plot that makes it a very fun read – once you enter its world it really does not seem to let you go.

While very clearly our own –lot has happened between our time and the world of this novel, or a lot of interesting face that in this future is common knowledge but will at the moment be classified – repeated references are made the war in Iraq and the use of cloned soldiers in that conflict as an example. Given the US has admitted to the use of mind-altering drugs through the MK Ultra program, this is far from impossible.

The story in this not-terribly distant future (the setting is not quite Bladerunner territory, but society does seem to be going in that direction) has something of both Bladerunner and of The Fugitive in it, the 1993 film starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, mixed with the video game series Hitman just for extra flavor. There’s a small handful of characters this novel focuses on, Nikolai Crowe – a humble everyman who is meeting his ex-girlfriend Jade Sho one night when he finds her dead body and is accused of her murder, Alpha Replica 3007 – an inhumanly strong clone who might be trying to help, and Detective Lucas Knox who is very determined and at times quite world weary, but is very intelligent and deep down he is only interested in the right thing being done whenever he is on a case – he likes it when justice is fair.

The novel starts with Nikolai going to meet his ex, who has just broken up with him, in a park that was special to their relationship. To talk through some issues perhaps? However, when he gets there, he finds this girlfriend has been murdered – soon the police are on the scene, and Nikolai is their prime suspect because despite the fact he did not do it, all the evidence a police force could need (including DNA evidence) points to him as the culprit. However, in another part of this future New York City there is a bank robbery that has gone bad and turned into a hostage situation. Into this suddenly very busy night, Lucas Knox investigates as Nikolai goes on the run - helped by a mysterious person who Nikolai cannot really trust, and as they begin to know each other things only become stranger. By the end of the novel, the different strands of the plot start to intertwine, and the protagonists find that nothing about this night is going to be simple or easy – huge intrigues start to unravel, and secrets start to be revealed that will leave the world changed forever.

As an adventure through a futuristic world of conspiracy and danger this book is excellent, and it is a really interesting and exciting story. It is well worth checking out if you like fast-paced sci-fi thrillers, especially one with a complex plot that sometimes starts to feel more like a grander conspiracy than is always being revealed. This is a very good book, and for those listening to the audiobook, the voice actor Benjamin Britton also delivers a great performance – it is lively but never silly in trying to dramatize events. Not everyone will like audiobooks however, and the book can easily be found on Amazon.

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