Michael McBride knows how to write a good thriller. His horror isn’t too shabby either! Subhuman was a delight to read. McBride’s style brings to mind both James Rollins and Michael Crichton. He did a great job at mixing reality and fiction, to the point that I had to keep my phone on hand to ascertain which was which at times! (Yes, I’m one of those people who looks up stuff authors mention in books to see if it’s real or not.) He was able to easily sell his story to me. Anyone who has spent any time watching Ancient Aliens – I didn’t say believed! Just watched! – or any of those type of programs will be familiar with some of the odd stuff from our history that we can’t quite explain. I enjoyed how he took those familiar elements and made his own story from them.
Pretty much the only problem I had with Subhuman was the sheer amount of characters and the flipping of viewpoints between them. The plot unfolds through the eyes of several characters, alternating every chapter. I got a few of the characters confused pretty consistently as a result, and found myself frequently glancing back at the first six or so chapters in Subhuman to remind myself who was who. Didn’t stop me from enjoying the story, though!
Subhuman is well paced. While it is one of those books where the first half of it is primarily spent in build-up, it doesn’t feel like it. I never got bored or anxious for the story to move along. I was intrigued with the bits and pieces the author slowly fed me. Then, when the feces did start hitting the fan, I was quite happy to shift gears and let the horror hound in me out to play. Subhuman delivers a near perfect mix of thrills and gore and is almost impossible to put down.
The author also has a way of slipping in one-liners that will leave you giggling,
“Not bad for a four-eyed girl from Scranton, whose first archaeological dig was in a sandbox that produced what other kids convinced her was a piece of chocolate.”
or sometimes just describing things so perfectly that you couldn’t help but laugh.
“There were men who took their responsibilities seriously, and then there was Dale, who seemed to spend every waking moment averting life-and-death catastrophes, if only in his mind.”
It’s not all witty wordplay, though. He knows how to make you stop and think,
“Seemingly overnight, modern man’s Simian shelf vanished and his sloping forehead gave way to an upright frontal bone about doubled in size to accommodate a brain twice the size of those of any other hominin species, and yet somehow it has miraculously remained the same size for more than 20,000 years.”
and there’s also some very snarky (and disturbingly apt feeling) observations on current society.
“I know how old-school this must seem, but the world’s been too busy uploading porn and cat pictures on the internet to waste any time digitizing old scientific texts and articles that are only of interest to the few of us left who can actually read.”
Overall, Subhuman was a fun read that will keep you fully engaged and leave your mind lingering on the possibilities after the book is over. It’s the first book in the Unit 51 series, so prepare to settle in and get comfortable with these characters. The only thing that I worry about (and you can tell I’m thinking long-term here) is that the author will fall into the Rollins’ type trap where after a while all of the books in the series start to feel exactly the same. I hope he can avoid that, because I want more. Now, please!
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author for review consideration.