INVASIVE By Chuck Wendig Reviewed
August 16, 2016
What will spell the world’s doom? Will the future be evolution? Or ruination?
Chuck Wendig’s INVASIVE is set in the same world that he had previously established in ZER0ES. A world that has been shaken to its foundation by a barely defeated encounter with a man-made evil artificial intelligence. But mankind faced that challenge and won. Now mankind faces its next challenge. A challenge that, once again, has been created by science. The first threat was a cyber intelligence that gained self-awareness. This time, it’s genetically modified insects that spell the world’s doom.
Wendig crosses, blurs, and smashes genre boundaries more often – and more skillfully – than any author working today. One of the current stewards of the Star Wars literary universe, Wendig is simultaneously crafting stories of science-fantasy set in a galaxy far, far away, and at the same time he is shepherding this world set outside your window: the world of terrifying science-fact. Our guide in this world is Agent Hollis Copper, a gruff government agent whom we met in ZER0ES. Like Samuel L. Jackson in the early Marvel movies, Agent Copper’s role is usually to assess the situation and call in the individuals who can deal with said situation. He also says things like, “Explain it to me again” and “I don’t understand what that means”. Having a character like Copper in these high-tech thrillers is a must. Copper needs to be the reader’s guide through the fantastic elements that Wendig is setting up. But doing it in such a way that Copper doesn’t come off like a walking, talking box of exposition in the corner of a comic book page? Ah. Now, we are seeing the skills of an author who knows how to parcel out the information and not bore the reader.
The individual who can deal with the current crisis? That would be our heroine, futurist, and FBI consultant Hannah Stander. Hannah is a flawed hero in the best sense. Raised by parents who are doomsday preppers, Hannah is always fighting her nature vs. nurture instincts. She knows mankind must face the future to stem the crimes humans are doing to themselves and the environment; however, the isolationist teachings her parents instilled in her make for a fascinating dichotomy. When Copper calls her out to an especially grisly murder scene, Hannah knows this is a case that requires her immediate attention, and she will need help. Hannah calls her associate and close friend, Dr. Ez Choi. An entomologist of some renown, Dr. Choi brings a punk rock aesthetic that contrasts well with Hannah’s quiet demeanor. It’s clear that Dr. Choi is a favorite with Wendig since she provides him the opportunity to cut loose with his signature rat-a-tat pacing and razor sharp dialog. By the end of the book I was shouting, “I need more Ez Choi!”
Maybe co-billing in the third book, Mr. Wendig?
As the plot builds, Hannah follows the trail of clues to the ant hill, where she hopes she will find the answers she needs. Those answers are at the Hawaiian island headquarters of Arca Labs, headed by Icelandic futurist billionaire Einar Geirsson. While there are plenty of nods and homages to tropes laid down in books like Dr. No and Jurassic Park, again we see Wendig nodding to the familiar, but focusing on Hannah’s search for the killer. The reader needs to know the science of the ants to make the story work, but we don’t need to be bogged down by pages of formula. Wendig tells us enough to keep the story moving as fast as the storm that pounds into the island.
INVASIVE is one part locked room mystery, one part 1950’s monster movie, and one part cutting-edge scientific thriller. All parts thrown together like a literary Swedish chef. The story twists and turns like the hiking trails that circle the island. Hannah Stander is the world’s only hope for survival against an unspeakable horror unleashed by the arrogance of a madman. But how can one woman stop multiple colonies of genetically modified murder ants?
Chuck Wendig knows. And soon, so will you.