Book Review: Bioweapon by J.K. Bowden
After political and environmental threats nearly dismantle society, the world unites under a single government intent upon stamping out age-old threats and uniting humanity through common cause and technological communion. This takes the form of computer integration into the human brain, offering a collective mind to humanity. However, behind the closed doors of the Tribunal – a hidden group of 16 world leaders - something far more sinister threatens all those who do not comply with their new order. In response, a collection of brilliant scientists has created a furtive, new defense: the Bioweapons.
J.K. Bowden’s novel “Bioweapon” follows the life of the most advanced of these mechanically enhanced human weapons, Rin Renslow, as he attempts to take his place in a coming war between the global government and the scattered rebel groups that remain. At the same time, Leah, a clever reporter who’s curiosity and ability to navigate the sea of cryptic information flooding the – now accessible by thought – internet is thrust violently into the same conflict. Rin and Leah’s unique strengths soon connect their fates as they must work together to strengthen the rebels’ forces in preparation for all out war against the will of the Tribunal.
In “Bioweapon” Bowden creates an all too plausible future which utilizes pressing issues such as climate change, global disarmament, a desensitizing media, and consumerism, treating each as the real problems they are, but then twisting their resolution into something even more threatening. He also plays with the idea of the technological singularity which was made most famous by professor and author Vernor Vinge.
Bowden has a keen grasp of social influences shown in his integration of many cultural responses to the world his novel displays such as: political and cultural impacts within the Middle East, India, Australia and America; wide spreading views on the nature of education and complacency; and the realities of being a “freedom fighter.”
The last is perhaps the most striking as he frames the coldly practical mindset of Rin’s uncle Cid who leads a group of rebels in rural Australia. Phrases like: “If you are not ready to die, do not take a gun!” or, to Rin, “This war will be won by the few, my boy, not the many. You are far too important a piece to lose this early on,” both show the harsh realities of a militant insurgency.
Leah, too, encounters a similarly minded coalition, though separate from the rebels. Headed by the passionate, yet practical Poc, the Hackers operate from within the technology which is protested by the Rebels. Bowden’s subtly differing mentalities between the various groups that oppose the World Government – the rebels seem to be the most ideological, the hackers are practical and non celebratory in their independence and a third group, the Pirates, retain a particular, likeable, self-centeredness that if nothing else reminds the reader they are free.
“Bioweapon” also promotes, briefly, hints of epic literature which is an interesting decision on Bowden’s part as it risks appearing overly dramatic, but captures the scope of the threat Rin and Leah oppose:
“It was a song of battle, and glory; of freedom, and salvation. There were no words, at least, none that Rin could recognise. It was a song of images, and of feelings that grounded him in the heat of the moment. Primordial, ancestral memories rose from within untapped parts of his brain, forcing him to release things he had suppressed and ignored until that moment.”
I have mixed feelings about the many flashbacks which provide the narrative’s back-story. Stylistically, they are rarely an ideal tool, as more often than not they can be distracting from the storyline. However, Bowden avoids overweighing them with portentous triggers or needless, personal anecdotes.
His writing has more sentence fragments than I would like. They work to speed up tension, as they should, but if too many are put on a page, it begins to get distracting.
Those few things aside, I have to say that Bowden has remarkable skill as a writer. He confidently enters the world of his premise and doesn’t attack the reader with clumsy reminders of how that world functions. He does this with a lengthy prologue providing both the nature of cultural and technological advancements preceding the events in the novel. My favorite choice he made here is to use two voices, both intelligent, but sharply differing in style and focus. Lines such as:
“Children were raised to know that the world was crumbling,
and at the same time were systematically raised to do nothing about it.”
give the prologue merit and give the reader an emotional connection to the futility of Bowden’s dystopian universe through excerpts from the fabricated Oliver Richards’s “Darkness before the Dawn” and journal of Miriam Sadler, both of which are poignantly astute, alarming, and beautifully written.
Give me a solid prologue, followed by an ominous introduction about the weather and I think: Steinbeck. It’s a risky move for a writer as neither encompasses an immediate hook or thrill, but Bowden pulls it off in absolute style with an intellectual flair that is seldom seen. It also, is necessary in establishing the complex premise Bowden needs to convey.
All things told, I am extremely impressed by what Bowden has done with his plot, writing, and premise. “Bioweapon” is perhaps the most enjoyable and intelligently written novel I’ve read this year. Personally, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Well done, and I eagerly look forward to Part II.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeremy Bowden has been an avid reader and writer since the age of three. He has a degree in Psychological Sciences from the University of New South Wales, Australia, and is an active advocate for social change, having also co-founded the educational reform program ‘Elemental Education’. Alongside his partner and editor, Lilly Moody, Jeremy has been pushing the project forward for the last nine-months. Within this sphere he has organised and promoted a number of music, workshop and lifestyle events, most recently ‘Full Spectrum’ in Uki, NNSW.
He is a self-published science-fiction author, and an avid proponent of educational reform. Through Elemental Education, Jeremy and his team hope to redirect the focus of the current education system towards creativity, self-exploration, and well-being, whilst maintaining a thoroughly academic and scientific approach in all avenues.
The ‘Bioweapon’ series is not only an action-packed and imaginative sci-fi thriller, but it is also a social commentary that has developed in line with Jeremy’s observations and personal beliefs in regards to science, technology, spirituality, politics and society. The concept of ‘Freedom’ is one which he explores deeply within this series.
(Author's bio from: jkbowden.net)