Japanese author Project Itoh's sci-fi novel Genocidal Organ envisions a future where a mix of therapy and drugs allows soldiers to be inoculated against the horrors of combat, allowing them to drop into global hotspots using hybrid bio-mechanical ships. The author's work here (real name, Satoshi It?) scratches at the future of combat, a world where the war on terror won't end--can't end, while the increasingly damaged men and women on the frontlines become incapable of dealing with life away from the field of duty.
For anyone who's had the chance to read the late author's Metal Gear Solid 4 novelization, you'll find some parallels between that adaptation of the Kojima Productions game series' paranoia about the war being franchised and commercialized, but without the benefit of a hero as charismatic as Solid Snake. Instead, we've got the hopelessly damaged and disconnected career Special Forces man Clavis Shepherd, and in lieu of a series of increasingly bizarre super-soldiers, his battle is with a man whose very presence can set off waves of genocide in a country.
That man would be the enigmatic John Paul, a mystery figure on the radar of the alphabet soup of covert organizations within the U.S. government. He's a mystery man, a black spot, able to work his way into the inner circles of third-world countries which seem to spiral into vicious in-fighting within months of his arrival. The how and why of John Paul is the central mystery of Genocidal Organ and Project Itoh makes the hunt for him--across Eastern Europe, through Africa, and into India--one part spy story another part bloody, detached war story.
The problem is that being inside of Clavis' head can be exhausting and exasperating. The veteran soldier lives a solitary life outside of the battlefield and is tortured by the recent death of his mother back home, and spends the story grappling with the meaning of his job. If he's been programmed and trained by his government to be the perfect killing machine, does that make him morally correct? Project Itoh attempts to grapple with this issue and his character, but Clavis is so dryly philosophical about his situation and his actions that he lacks any real emotional current throughout.
John Paul is far more interesting, even though he's certifiably nuts. While we never spend any time inside his head, his motives are frightening and the method he's devised to spin chaos out of peaceful countries is the stuff of the finest sci-fi. Similarly, tech nuts will get a kick out of the exhaustive descriptions of some of the future tech being deployed against the War on Terror, the flexing, fleshy machines that aid Clavis and his squad in battle sound sleek, amazing, and terrible.
It's a novel filled with some truly gripping prose and a dangerous, attractive villain, only lacking in a similarly appealing and interesting hero.
Genocidal Organ is available now in print and digitally through VIZ's Haikasorou imprint.