Forty years in the future, the Congo has succumbed to civil wars, eco-friendly corporate ownership, dubious genetic experimentation, and, white devils. When charity worker Nicholas Hyde investigates a puzzling massacre, he's attacked by vicious creatures that resemble bald, albino monkeys. Questioning the government's claim that these devils are children posing as enemy soldiers, he embarks on a dark, bloody journey through an engineered "Dead Zone" to discover the source of their existence. But when he finds himself at the center of a cover-up, he must guard his own secret in order to save his life.
Tor. 464 pages. $25.95.
"[T]he world we are taken to here, in which the products of genetic engineering have escaped from the laboratory and all control, has a clammy reality that makes Michael Crichton's speculations seem unpersuasive. This is a novel that exhilarates on all levels: the ideas are quite as forcefully realised as the machine-tooled plotting." Barry Forshaw
"[McAuley] has created a compelling if somewhat unlikely hybrid of Crichton and Conrad, a dark and atmospheric scientific thriller that keeps you gripped until the very last page. ... He knowingly invokes the long tradition of mad, bad scientists in fiction, from Frankenstein to Dr. Moreau." P.D. Smith
With its mantra against genetic engineering, White Devils raises natural comparisons to the works of Michael Crichton and, with its leap into Africa's modern heart of darkness, Joseph Conrad. Critics agree that McAuley, a British biologist-turned-award-winning SF writer, has written a minor thriller masterpiece. It's smart, appropriately sinister, and has a plot that "roars along like a bushfire, crackling with fast and brutal action" (Guardian). McAuley's message is clear, runaway genetic engineering leads to no good, not to mention plastic vegetation. His examination of biotechnology's implications complements other provoking themes, including lost childhood innocence and the ethics of military conflict. But McAuley's no alarmist. After reading this thriller, you'll see him as a realist.