Gene, by Stel Pavlou

Ahoy there, readers, and welcome to another blog post!

As per my last entry, I have been ploughing my way through Stel Pavlou’s second novel, Gene, and for me it was something of a double-edged sword. Gene is one of those rare books which has a theme so attractive, that despite any discontinuity in the plotline you can still read and enjoy it. The strangest thing about the discontinuity is that it’s there by nature of the plot itself, which probably sounds like a more confusing concept than it actually is. So, let me explain.

The general idea behind Gene is one of eternal life. Specifically, the eternal life of Athanatos over that of Cyclades, two warriors who both fought and ‘died’ during the Trojan War. Cyclades is possessive of a ‘gift’ which makes it impossible for his soul to perish with his body, instead reincarnating itself every few years with the goal of defeating Athanatos, his enemy. Athanatos is of course trying to find a way to either emulate Cyclades’ ability, or steal it from him by means of killing him, and the book follows the progress of these two old souls after their reincarnation during the 21st century.

Athanatos, however, has a trick up his sleeve. He also gets reincarnated, but at a much faster rate than Cyclades does. In an effort to rid himself of his enemy, somewhere along the line he managed to get samples of Cyclades’ DNA and produces artificially inseminated clones of Cyclades himself. He studies these clones for their weaknesses and attempts to strip the soul of Cyclades of his memories, but when the novel’s protagonist and most recent reincarnation of Cyclades – Detective North – discovers what is going on, he decides to put a stop to the process and hold Athanatos accountable for his crimes.

What follows is a twisting and turning plot full of unexpected surprises as we follow North through his experiences and his journey to stop Athanatos. Inside of this, we get to see an interesting side of North when he begins to suffer from induced psychosis as his latent memories – belonging to Cyclades – start to come to the surface. This psychosis is what makes the book necessarily discontinuous. North’s mind is scattered and confused, and the book shows us exactly how this is, in all of its crazy psychosis glory. It’s easy to sympathise with North as he struggles with his reality, but it’s not so easy to understand Athanatos and his captured Cyclades. Athanatos’ storyline is, to say the least, confused. He has even less of an idea than Cyclades does about who he is, and is struggling to change something about himself without seeing the nature of himself in the first place. This goes to the detriment of the work as it clouds everything up, and even though the idea behind the work was fantastic this level of confusion does take away from the book’s final impression.

Gene, then, is a mixed bag. The characters are lively and vibrant, but the plot could have been less convoluted for the sake of the reader. The idea behind the plot, is awesome. All it needed was a little more development and clarity to make it something that people wouldn’t hesitate to re-read. As for whether or not the book contained a lesson? I’d say it wasn’t really the focus here. Gene is a book more about plot than anything else, and sometimes that’s all a person needs.

I know this is a short one, but there really isn’t much more to say on the subject. Besides reading, I’ve also been putting quite a few hours a day into working on my own novel, Pirates of Time. Everything is coming along swimmingly now that I’m into the thick of it. I’m also in the process of reading The Road to Dune, which details Frank Herbert’s process in constructing the Dune series. I’ll have to interrupt my reading to focus on the Dune chronicles themselves; Road has a number of deleted scenes and I think context is going to be necessary here.

That’s all from me for now, hope you’re keeping well wherever you are and that you never stop reading!



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