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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Genocide of One

Takano Kazuaki

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To purchase Genocide of One

Title: Genocide of One
Author: Takano Kazuaki
Genre: Novel
Written: 2011 (Eng. 2014)
Length: 506 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: Genocide of One - US
Genocide of One - UK
Genocide of One - Canada
Genocide Of One - India
Extinction - Deutschland
  • Japanese title: ジェノサイド
  • Translated by Philip Gabriel

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Our Assessment:

B- : Crichtonesque -- moves along fast enough but ridiculously far-fetched and simplistic

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 3/11/2014 .
Die Welt . 10/1/2015 Felix Zwinzscher

  From the Reviews:
  • "Michael Crichton fans will welcome Takano's exceptional thriller (.....) First-rate characterizations, even of walk-on figures, lend plausibility to the sophisticated story line." - Publishers Weekly

  • "Der Japaner treibt darin die Geschichte mit einem guten Gespür fürs Timing voran und verwebt die verschiedenen Handlungsstränge geschickt. Doch neben den handlungsfördernden Gräueltaten der US-Regierung, die dazu dienen, die Protagonisten voranzutreiben, führt er den Leser immer wieder auf kleine, sachlich vorgetragene Exkursionen, die keinen anderen Sinn zu haben scheinen, als einen latenten USA-Hass zu schüren. (...) Doch der Fluss des Romans wird bald von den sprachlichen Fähigkeiten Takanos ausgebremst. Während die teilweise recht anspruchsvollen naturwissenschaftlichen Theorien durchaus verständlich rekonstruiert werden, bleibt Takano seinem reduzierten Stil auch in allen anderen Situationen treu." - Felix Zwinzscher, Die Welt

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Genocide of One -- worst thriller title ever ? -- takes place in 2004. The American president is called Gregory S. Burns, and his vice-president Chamberlain, but the names are pretty much the only things that have been changed: Takano presents a brutal portrait of the jr. Bush administration, mired deep in war in the Middle East, and it's these barely veiled versions of Bush-boy George jr. and henchman Dick Cheney that are the leaders as the United States gets intelligence about an unusual and entirely new threat the nation and the world are possibly facing. Painting them in the darkest possible light (i.e. essentially true-to-life), the administration's gut response -- god forbid there'd be a reasoned one, that's not the way they do things -- is to eliminate the threat forthwith. As it turns out, however, the threat is rather more advanced than expected, and simply eliminating it proves to be not so simple after all.
       The novel shifts around, moving between a variety of clusters of characters. There's the Washington crowd, from the president on down, tasked with ruthlessly wiping the threat out. There's Jonathan Yeager, a security contractor working in Iraq when he's picked to join a small commando force of four people charged with what they are told is Operation Guardian (actual code name: Operation Nemesis). Yeager has a young child who is suffering from a rare, incurable disease, pulmonary alveolar epithelial cell sclerosis (PAECS), and who is now being treated in Portugal, but is close to death. And there's Kento Koga, a Japanese grad student working in a pharmaceutical lab, whose father, a university professor, Seiji, just died unexpectedly.
       Kento gets what amounts to a message from the dead from his father, who had apparently planned ahead for a possible longer absence (and/or his death). Told to tell absolutely no one, he is led to some computers, a filled-to-the-brim bank account in someone else's name, and a hidden laboratory. He's not quite sure what it's all about, but pointed in the right direction he's soon working on a possible cure for PAECS. Time, however, is of the essence, a countdown running.
       Yeager and his team are prepped for their dangerous mission. Destination: Africa -- war-torn Congo, specifically -- where -- so they're told -- they are to wipe out a small colony of locals who are infected with a very nasty virus that poses a threat to all mankind. In fact, they're being set up -- and aren't meant to survive their mission.
       There's an old report from the 1970s called the Heisman Report -- "research ito the extinction of the human race" that looked at several possible threats to humanity. One of them is human evolution -- the coming of the next generation of human beings, with an intelligence magnitudes of order greater than our own. And now it looks like one of these that has evolved -- in the Congo. Still only three years old, the being shows incredible abilities. The American government decides that before things get out of hand the best solution is simply to eradicate it -- hence Operation Guardian cum Nemesis.
       As it turns out, things are considerably more complex than they originally seem. The commando group reach their target, and quickly discover that they weren't exactly told truth; they decide to change their mission to one of extraction, removing the super-intelligence from war-torn and hence very dangerous Congo. Of course, the pathetic American president still wants the mission completed as planned, and so the evolved being and his now-protectors continue to remain in great, great danger.
       Meanwhile, Kento is working on the cure to PAECS -- and finds his own life in some danger as America, the all-hearing surveillance state, realizes he's part of this larger threat they're dealing with. Kento also learns more about his father and how he became involved in all this, information from the past slowly coming to light.
       The Americans realize they are dealing with something unlike they've ever encountered before, but decide to escalate things -- even when there are signs that they're being toyed with, their adversary reacting to their actions, suggesting also that if they dial down the threat so will it. Even some of those involved in figuring out the American response come to realize that it might be better not to pursue this being.
       There's danger galore, in the Congo jungle and elsewhere, and even as the super-intelligence seems capable of affecting incredible change the bullets continue to whiz by and its safety seems by no means assured. And there's the continuing tension of whether or not Kento can find the cure in time .....
       Genocide of One is right out of the Michael Crichton paint-by-numbers playbook -- and a fine imitation-version in its own right. The suspense is decent, there are a couple of nice surprises as more information about the super-intelligence emerges (there's more to it than anyone initially realizes), and while the human portraits are very, very flat, Takano gives it a decent college try in adding a bit of emotion (though the dying kid is kind of a weak support-pillar).
       This is a pretty basic thriller, but it's based on some intriguing ideas and packs a great deal in. There's decent suspense, exotic locales, and the pleasure of seeing the comeuppance of the Cheney stand-in, and even if little stands up to much scrutiny (far-fetched doesn't begin to describe much of what happens here) it's fine for thriller-purposes.

       Note: The flap- and publicity-copy for the US edition of Genocide of One begins:
During a briefing in Washington D.C., the President is informed of a threat to national security: a three-year-old boy named Akili, who is already the smartest being on the planet.
       Given that Takano waits almost 180 pages before describing the threat itself, and that "a three-year-old boy" doesn't really capture what this being is, this is perhaps not the ideal lead-in for readers, making the book's premise sound even more ridiculous than it actually is.

- M.A.Orthofer, 13 January 2015

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Genocide of One: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Takano Kazuaki (高野和明) was born in 1964.

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