by Terrance V. Mc Arthur
Check out the instructions on how to enter to win a copy of Basilisk at the end of this review.
Michael or Misha or Lukas—whatever the name, he’s a genetically-engineered assassin who can kill with a touch. Stefan, his brother, kills in other ways—his Russian mafia father raised him to be deadly at any speed. Godzilla, Michael’s ferret—he’s a ferret, which is enough trouble for most people.
Stefan rescued Michael from the Institute just in time, because he wasn’t acting like an obedient little murderer. Now, the twenty-year-old is trying to figure out a way to cure the killers-in-training he left behind, e-communicating with the equally-brilliant Ariel on gene therapy. Of course, having a rogue government agent on his trail does complicate things. Even worse, Wendy, who was only seven when Michael escaped three years ago, doesn’t even need to touch you to kill you…and she really likes to kill.
Basilisk, Rob (Robyn) Thurman’s second novel of the Korsak brothers (after Chimera), is a techno-horror-thriller, as opposed to her Cal Leandros and Trickster urban-fantasy lines. Fast-paced and well-drizzled with sardonic humor, even the quiet moments have a tension because of all the forces out to get Michael and Stefan. The action rages across states from a soft-focus Oregon town, through a deadly California sojourn, to a pan-fried Arizona. Along the way, they gather up Saul, their connection for hiring mercenaries, whose clothing is style-and-taste-challenged.
The Korsaks work their way around deadly challenges, bicker and lie to each other, and act like brothers. They call each other names, they disagree on the best course of action, and they will sacrifice their lives for each other, which will ring true to anyone who ever had a sibling.
Michael’s long-distance relationship with Ariel, a pink-haired geneticist, is fun to follow, although Thurman drops her from view for chapters at a time. Not content with his ability to blot out a human life by physical contact, Michael also guts and cannibalizes any mechanical devices he encounters, leaving bits and pieces of televisions and vending machines in his wake, scrambling electronics, and electrocuting visitors to his door.
It isn’t often that a character that dangerous makes me laugh, but his outsider view of American culture and language, caused by his ten years of isolation in the Institute, gives a fresh look at things we say and do. His explorations of profanity and vulgarity have an innocent playfulness that works for the story. A genius on the run, lots of explosions, and coarse language: for some people, this is as good as it gets.
To enter to win a copy of Last Breath, simply email KRL at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Basilisk”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 21, 2012. U.S. residents only.