Saturday, November 27, 2010

Science fiction book review: The Unwanted by Daniel L. Carter

Young genetically engineered super children escape their evil origins in science fiction thriller The Unwanted by Daniel L. Carter.
Nurses Janet and Michele are initially excited about their high-paying side job at a research facility. Then the weirdness of the situation starts to bother them. The constant administration of unknown drugs to pregnant women who don't speak English and the creepy wheelchair-bound Dr. Tibon Scharf soon make Janet and Michele wary of their employer.

Meanwhile Nick, an FBI agent investigating a series of deadly explosions that kill mysterious groups of infants, learns that the people involved are using genetic engineering equipment. Despite his efforts, he is always one step behind Tibon and his ruthless assistant Liz Bolan. Tibon destroys his latest research facility and moves before the FBI catch up, but this time the clean up job is botched. Janet and Michele narrowly escape the explosion meant to kill them and five experimental infants. Knowing Tibon has law enforcement connections, the women flee with the babies to a remote cabin on the Oklahoma ranch of Janet's uncle, Leigh Barrus.

Uncle Leigh shelters them secretly after they explain the danger. The babies (three boys and two girls) are named Sampson, Marcus, Zack, Angie, and Anna. They soon exhibit rapid growth and alarming powers of intellect and strength as the years go by. Tibon continues with his genetic engineering experiments while Nick's FBI career flounders into failure.

As I read the novel, Carter's writing built genuine feelings in me for the fugitive family. They grapple with money problems, nosey redneck neighbors, and their difficult state of isolation. Uncle Leigh was the star of the novel for me. His gentle, loving, and protective influence provided everything a person could want in a father figure. The weirdly advanced children love and respect him too, and the influence of his Christian values has a positive effect on the five children, whose lives have special challenges.

Although a story with genetically engineered super children is not particularly original, the Christian upbringing did provide an interesting twist. Prayer gives the children a coping mechanism for their intense emotional issues, and belief in a higher power helps them see beyond their personal problems. However, when Anna tells Uncle Leigh that God speaks to her, even he is incredulous at first. Yet there is no denying her intense psychic abilities, and Uncle Leigh accepts that perhaps she does have a superior connection with God.

The accelerated development of the children is presented in a reasonable and interesting fashion. The stupid and often insensitive boyish excesses of the Marcus, Zack, and Sampson feel real, and the girls are charmingly bossy and reliable.

The Unwanted is a well paced novel that never gets slow. Something is always going on. It has plenty of tense gunfights, super power battles, tranquilizer darts, helicopters, missiles, explosions, and the threat of poison gas.

About my only problem with the novel was the cliche nature of the scenes involving FBI agent Nick. They read like any crime drama you've ever seen. I'm not saying they are badly written. Carter has a smooth flowing style that lets a narrative unfold with great clarity. But Nick and his law enforcement fiascoes lacked originality. Why does the law enforcement character always have to be divorced, obsessed with a case, and driven to drink? Although this character annoyed me, he does not dominate the novel. The majority of the novel is very engaging, and the developing young super heroes are sympathetic and likable.

As the first in a trilogy, The Unwanted sets up a great foundation for further adventures with characters whose origins have been thoroughly explained. The Unwanted markets itself as a novel for all ages, and I agree. As an adult I found it to be intelligent reading, and I think that teens would find much to appreciate as well. My bottom line opinion is that The Unwanted reads like you are watching a Hollywood blockbuster.

Go to to read a sample or go straight to buying The Unwanted.