Review: Black Rain by Matthew B.J. Delaney
This novel was my Kindle First choice for August, after a "dry month" in which none of the six choices were worth the memory space on my Kindle. (This is my opinion only, of course, as with all my reviews.)
For Jack Saxton, life is good; his step-father is head of Genico, the largest provider of "samps" (gen-engineered medicines to cure diseases and genetic disorders), and the gen-engineered artificial-human Synthates who perform all the distasteful or tedious tasks that keep his world running smoothly. Like his step-brother Phillip, Jack's only job is to enjoy life.
For Phillip Saxton, the world would be better without his step-brother Jack. He lives a hard-partying life reminiscent of Gordon Gecko's Wall Street. What Phillip buys and sells is not stocks and businesses, but manufactured people—Synthates—and modified biological samples. His immediate goal is to score enough cocaine to make it through the night; long-term, he wants to supplant Jack as the favored son in his father's eyes.
Phillip's envy seems to have poisoned him, to the point where he reports Jack as a Synthate "passing as human," condemning his brother to die in the Games. Jack's life is about to spin out of control, his wife murdered, his status changed in an instant from presumptive heir of Genico to slave.
Then there's the Black Rain of the title, a hideous plague that killed or disabled "naturals," but to which the Synthates were immune. The Games that slay so many Synthates seem justified by the need to punish the slaves for their release of Black Rain.
For humans to exist, we must live within a society. And a society cannot function with the presence of extreme violence. “In my opinion our human moral code has less to do with a fear of punishment and more to do with our inherent need to maintain a stable society..."
Delaney has done an excellent job of presenting a future society based on genetically-modified humans and medicine, with a hard look at the social problems that holding humans as slaves always entails. There are twists galore—this is not a formulaic tale of injustice, with blackly evil villains and morally-pure heroes. It is much more interesting—more human—than that.
I guarantee you will not be able to predict the ending from the first chapters. Jack must stay alive through the experience to uncover to truth. You, at least, can simply follow and enjoy the eventual unveiling.