“The Double Human,” by James O’Neal. Tor. 336 pages. $24.99.
With “The Double Human,” James O’Neal continues to unveil the distinctive dystopian world he first offered readers in his well-received “The Human Disguise” (2009, now in mass market paperback). Though the new book succeeds as a stand-alone sequel, the earlier title develops O’Neal’s futuristic premise more fully. Thus, while any reader can enjoy “The Double Human,” readers familiar with “The Human Disguise” will get more out of the new title than those who aren’t.
O’Neal’s futuristic setting, a mere twenty years into the future, is also in the aftermath of nuclear devastation, climate change, and widespread disease. It’s a gray world with crumbling roads, abandoned cities, and barely functioning government services. Dade County is now the Miami Quarantine Zone, officially outside of the United States, where lawless predators threaten settlers or detainees who would rebuild and attempt to care for the remaining population.
North of the Zone’s border is the Lawton District often patrolled by combat veteran Tom Wilner, a detective with the severely understaffed United Florida Police. Southwest Florida, from Naples to Sarasota, has been reclaimed by nature and largely depopulated: some diehard holdouts hang on there, along with vagabond settlers who cherish privacy, simplicity, and independence.
And everywhere there are criminals, not all of whom are human. The population includes two rival humanoid clans with superior strength, miraculous recuperative powers, and long lives resulting from an extremely slow aging process. Originally from Eastern Europe, these humanoids have birthed offspring who in many cases are ignorant of their genetic differences from the human population. In “The Human Disguise,” we learn that Tom Wilner had been married to such a humanoid and is raising hybrid children.
Wilner is a thorough dedicated and highly skilled cop who needs to overachieve in the face of diminished law enforcement resources and infrastructure breakdown at every level. In a Florida bereft of sunshine and thus of its traditional economic life, Wilner finds himself in pursuit of a mysterious serial killer whose earliest murder goes back 50 years. Because the victims have puncture wounds on their necks, the killer is called “The Vampire.” He seems unstoppable.
To read the entire review, as it appears in the September 1-7, 2010 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the September 2-8 Naples Florida Weekly, click here: Florida Weekly – James O’Neal pdf