Deadeye, by William C Dietz

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Publication date – January 27, 2015

Summary: In the year 2038, an act of bioengineered terrorism decimated humanity. Those who survived were either completely unaffected or developed horrible mutations. Across the globe, nations are now divided between areas populated by “norms” and lands run by “mutants”…

Detective Cassandra Lee of Los Angeles’s Special Investigative Section has built a fierce reputation taking down some of the city’s most notorious criminals. But the serial cop killer known as Bonebreaker—who murdered Lee’s father—is still at large. Officially, she’s too personally involved to work on the Bonebreaker case. Unofficially, she’s going to hunt him to the ends of the earth.

In the meantime, duty calls when the daughter of Bishop Screed, head of the Church of Human Purity, is kidnapped by mutants and taken into the red zone to be used for breeding. Assigned to rescue her, Lee must trust her new partner—mutant lawman Deputy Ras Omo—to guide her not only through the unfamiliar territory but through the prejudicial divisions between mutants and norms…

Thoughts: Deadeye paints an image of near-future America, devastated by disease but doing its best to recover and get on with life. The disease, a bacterial infection, has left most of the infected as mutants, people with disfigurements and who are ostracized from society due to the possibility of passing the contagion to “norms.” Cassandra Lee escaped infection, is still “normal,” and works with law enforcement to make life safer for everyone.

Deadeye isn’t exactly a comfortable read at points, in no small part because of the prejudice between “muties” and “norms.” Mutants are actively discriminated against. They’re segregated from the rest of society, forced to live in “red zones” where the risk of contagion is higher, given little to no real support from the government, and even those in charge seem to just want to sweep them under the rug and not have to deal with them. Most of the animosity seems to stem less from fear of contagion and more disgust with the fact that they have disfigurements and people consider them ugly. Which got me wondering what kind of privileged life all these characters must have led, to have never seen a person with deformities from injury or genetic issue. That aspect of Dietz’s near-future world-building sat badly with me, to be honest, because it seemed to say that only people who contracted the disease look like that, and everyone else is has a perfect unblemished body. Especially given that some of the deformities listed are things like withered limbs or unhealing abscesses, rather than horns of pointy ears (though they’re present too).

I do have to commend Dietz for taking the idea of a new disease in the near-future that doesn’t create an army of zombies, because honestly, that idea’s been done to the point where it long since ceased even being stale. Having zombies as the outcome of emerging diseases seems to be weirdly in vogue, and as someone who vehemently dislikes zombies, I like seeing that concept go in a different direction. So while I imagine some people of similar mind might be put off by the description of this book, thinking that “mutants” is just going to be another word for the walking dead, I can assure you that it isn’t the case.

The ground is a little shaky when it comes to the science behind Dietz’s infection, however. Bacterial infections can cause disfigurements, but the kind of mutations you see in the book seem more likely to be caused by a virus meddling around with DNA, especially when you consider things like horns or elven ears. Also, it was stated that neither a cure nor a treatment has been found, because it keeps mutating and changing so quickly, and medical science can’t keep up with it. However, there seems to be no mention of people contracting it twice, which is what would happen if it kept mutating to a different strain. That’s why people get the flu multiple times in their lives. Influenza mutates quickly enough that the strain one year isn’t the same as the one next year. If it was mutating too quickly to formulate a vaccine, or even figure out which antibiotics might treat it, then people would run the risk of being infected multiple times, which doesn’t seem to be an issue since it never gets a mention.

Also, only mutants can be carriers or the disease, for some unexplained reason. This is part of the reason they’re segregated in the red zones. But the reason for this isn’t clear either, since it’s stated that people can survive infection without mutation, though it’s rarer. But logically, any human who survived infection could also be a carrier. It just seemed to be another piece of stigma attached to mutants, though this one can’t really be explained away by people being stupid and bigoted. Perhaps this is just so rare that it hasn’t happened yet, and this will be addressed in a future novel in the series; I don’t really know.

Dietz’s writing is decent, if a touch unpolished. In particular, what struck me was his tendency to explain acronyms with their full meaning in parentheses… in the middle of speech. Unless whoever was talking was doing the explaining (in which case, different punctuation than parentheses should have been used), that’s not the time to put aside the helpful little note for the reader’s sake. But for the most part, it’s okay. Very action-oriented, so if you’re looking for something that’s heavy on car chases and shootouts, then definitely take a look into Deadeye.

I think most of my apathy about this book is that unfortunately it just wasn’t too my taste. So while I didn’t think too highly of it, I think it’s quite likely that others, particularly those who tend to prefer police procedurals, will like it far more. The flaws I found may seem quite large partly because I didn’t find much to counter it, but even with that in mind I can’t say that it was a bad book. Just not one that I really enjoyed much. But I can say with certainty that there are those to whom this book will be quite appealing: as I said, those who like police procedurals, those who like their near-future fiction to be gritty and filled with action, those who are looking for a fast-paced ride through a grim and disturbing urban fantasy future that’s still in flux, then for you, it may well be worth checking out Deadeye when you get the chance. There’s enough mystery and suspense to keep the story going, and enough plot threads leading to the horizon to bring those readers back to the series for more.

(Received for review from the publisher.)

3 comments on “Deadeye, by William C Dietz

  1. I gave a lot of the faulty “science” behind the mutations and disease a pass, but the frequent POV changes and the in-line explanations in parentheses drove me INSANE. A decent story though, and futuristic police procedurals fall into my tastes. I’d probably give the next book a shot.

  2. Pingback: February in Retrospect | Bibliotropic

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