Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Human Disguise and The Double Human

The Human Disguise by James O'Neal
TOR, 2009
Trade Paperback, 368 pages
ISBN-13: 9780765320148

The world has been shattered. Disease and war have ravaged the Earth. A resurgent Germany once again threatens Europe, and the United States is engaged in the Middle-East while New York sits, an empty, radioactive ruin. The city of Miami has become a virtual prison, home to the worst life has to offer.
Tom Wilner lives on the outskirts of this forsaken realm. He's what this future passes off as a police officer. With his family shattered, Wilner is just a pale version of the police hero he once was. When a chance encounter in a rundown roadhouse erupts in violence, Wilner is forced to step in.
His exploration into the violence of that evening leads him onto the path of two ancient warring races. They have been manipulating power and control on Earth for centuries, and are about to enter into a battle for ultimate supremacy. Unless Tom Wilner puts an end to their fury.
The Double Human by James O'Neal
TOR, 2010
Hardcover, 336 pages 

ISBN-13: 9780765320155 

Tom Wilner is a cop.  At least what passes for a cop in this shattered world.  Plague and nuclear war have left most of the United States uninhabitable.  Many have fled to safer zones, forcing what’s left of the government to wall off cities in an attempt to control mass migration.  The city of Miami is just one of these contained prison states.  Bit it’s the outskirts of this forsaken realm that Tom Wilner calls home.
Amid this chaos, Wilner stumbles into the path of a wild and brutal adversary. Forced to go undercover in the most frightfully ravaged corners of the Miami Quarantine Zone, Wilner uncovers something he hasn’t seen in decades...a serial killer. But this killer’s path is not like any other; he has been active for nearly fifty years without any repercussions. People call him “the Vampire.” Indeed, this serial killer is not human...and neither are his victims.

My Thoughts:
The Human Disguise and The Double Human by James O'Neal take place in Florida, by the Miami quarantine zone, in a future dystopian United States. 

In The Human Disguise, when police officer James Wilner follows his wife and her lover into a bar to observe them, he inadvertently sets off a series of events. His investigation involves him in a bigger conflict between two ancient families. In The Double Human Wilner is investigating a "vampire" serial killer.

The Human Disguise is author O'Neal's debut into science fiction. He is an award winning crime/police procedural writer under the name James O. Born. This novel, and the second, The Double Human, are crime novels set in a future society rather than science fiction novels that involve an investigation. You need to know this. Because of this fact, both novels will likely appeal to those who enjoy crime/action novels more than those who prefer science fiction. I enjoy both types of novels, however, since my choice of these books was based on expecting more science fiction, I'll admit I was disappointed.

You will need to read the first novel, The Human Disguise, before The Double Human. The two stories are interconnected and the first book will explain more about this future society. Additionally, I felt like they both started out strong but lost some momentum in the investigation and all the fire fights. The potential of this future world was there but the plots didn't utilize it as much as I hoped. I also found some typos (see quotes) which is distracting for me because, unless I know it is an ARC, once I find one I start to look for more. Actually, after reading both novels, I really think O'Neal needs to keep writing the O. Born crime novels because that is where his passion seems to lie.
Recommended for crime novels; so-so as science fiction

Quotes (from The Human Disguise):

From the end of the bar, Tom Wilner could look through the cavernous main room and pool hall and still see her dark hair as she leaned back in her chair. The boyfriend, Tiget Nadovich, sat next to her, wearing that dark jacket over his black shirt and black pants that Wilner had seen him in twenty times before.
It bothered Wilner that all the databases listed him as a citizen of the United States for the last eleven years. That meant he got it just before the ban on immigration. It also meant he got it just for being in the United States when the amnesty bill passed and everyone inside the borders of the country was awarded citizenship. The Congress limited it to the first forty-nine states because they saw the writing on the wall about Hawaii. Once the independence movement started rolling, no one wanted to stand up and say that the native people of Hawaii didn't deserve their own country. Plus the fact that the United States was engaged in three wars at the time didn't help their position. opening

He shook his head, too embarrassed to admit what he was really doing. He tried to change the subject. "Anything happen on patrol today?"
Steve nodded as he sat on the stool. "Oh, yeah, riding that bike from the Northern Enclave to the Miami Quarantine Zone is so exciting I never run out of stories."
"What happened?"
"Nothing, you knucklehead. Same as every other day. Just a long ride in soggy weather."
"Lot of area."
Steve mumbled, "Damn Unified Police Force. I remember when each city could field a police department."
"That was a long time ago. No one can afford the taxes now."
They sat in silence until Wilner asked his friend, "Why aren't you reading up on the aliens?"
"Go ahead and make fun. When they finally arrive I'll be fully informed and know what to do." Then Steve scanned the room and stopped at the table with the beautiful dark-haired woman. "Oh, I get it." He looked at Wilner. "Are you crazy, following you ex-wife around?"
"We're not divorced yet." pg. 13

As he came up from behind the bar another flash of light destroyed a jukebox as it surged past the intended target. An energy weapon, or E-weapon, had been nicknamed a flasher by the Eighty-second Airborne since they first came into use during the third Iraq war. The flash of light beamed through a prism of gases could melt steel, destroy living tissue and cause terror among troops. As the deadly devices matured, the weapons became smaller, but lost some of their power. This one was handheld and probably only good for two or three shots. That's all it usually took. Instantly the jukebox melted and settled into a heap of glass and metal. An old country song skipped on an endless loop of a man singing "Live like you were dying," over and over. It was still identifiable, but no one would ever hear the jukebox play any other song again.
The two blond men, working together, were wading into the group led by Svala's boyfriend. The taller one used his knife to nearly gut one of the men from the table. The blade cut through his leather jacket and shirt, leaving a vicious gash where blood and internal organs looked ready to spill out onto the bar's dirty floor. pg. 17

As Wilner heard the sirens in the distance he said, "What a mess." He watched as Besslia checked the corpse, then looked in the canvas satchel.
Steve whistled and held up the bag for Wilner.
He stared at what had to be more than a million dollars in standard U.S trade currency that was commonly called "suds."
This whole night was going to raise questions. pg. 19

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