The Extinction Cycle (Book 1, 2 & 3)
Science Fiction Book Review
This is my first attempt at reading anything from Nicholas Sansbury Smith and it was enjoyable. There is no literature in any of these pages but it’s excellent plane reading or sit by the beach fare. Reading these books is like turning on an old Seinfeld episode that you’ve already seen. There aren’t any surprises but you know you will be thoroughly entertained anyway.
The general premise is that some shady government jackwads decided to mix an ultimate warrior chemical cocktail with the Ebola virus to create the perfect biological weapon. Imagine dropping the bio weapons on a terrorist group, they would turn into transformed, crazed humans that would ravage their own population, then shortly die out due to the Ebola side of it several days later. Well, it gets out of the lab and pretty much kills the whole world. This all happens pretty quickly in the first book. The rest of that book and the following two deal with survival and the creation of counter bio weapons that can eliminate the monsters that were created when this escaped the lab.
The primary two characters are actually pretty well developed throughout the three books. They’re not complex at all and our author doesn’t put them into any scenarios that would stretch them into making any deeper, more introspective decisions. Our main protagonist is Beckham, the Delta Force badass that saw this go down from the very beginning. He is all about survival and his competency in that category is his primary trait. He’s as American as chocolate dipped and twice fried apple pie and you don’t see him have to make any really difficult choices throughout any of the books. Kate Lovato is our other lead and she is the doctor that ultimately cut down the population of monsters by 90% and now has the job of creating a new weapon that will eliminate the rest of them.
Not surprisingly, because after all PhDs and Delta force typically hang out at all the same bars, these two start to hit it off and eventually add benefits to their friend status. It is the perfect PG-13 relationship and, if not for the raging death of mankind and society around them, would feel like any other budding high school hook-up. Maybe college, but it’s no more complex than that. Almost all of the interactions between the main characters and others are all very black and white. There aren’t even close to fifty shades of grey in these connections, maybe two or one, tops.
The other characters in the book have a serious case of red shirt-itis. New characters are introduced fairly often and just as often become kibbles and bits for the rage machines outside the walls. You can sense that Smith is doing his best to create emotional attachments to these side characters before killing them off but it’s not very effective. Without that attachment it is pretty hard to care about these deaths so they become an abstraction that fits into the ‘holy shit the whole world is crumbling’ bucket where all the other faceless deaths live. If he wants to add more drama, he’s gotta start killing his darlings.
He does a surprisingly thorough job with the science. He is not quite Michael Crichton level but he’s not far off. This was one of the things that kept me going: the science is pretty plausible. As is the idea that a couple of chicken-hawk assholes will be the ones that take us all down in the end.
He’s also got the plot thing down pretty damn well. You are rapidly moved from page to page as if a people walker mated with a treadmill and got stuck on high. Never a dull moment. Take this set of books for what they are and you will not be disappointed.