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Book Review: 7th Son: Descent by J. C. Hutchins

# Genre: Thriller, Science Fiction
# Paperback: 368 pages
# Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
# Publication Date: October 27, 2009
# ISBN-10: 0312384378
# ISBN-13: 978-0312384371
# Author Website: J. C. Hutchins

When a podcast novel gets over 100,000 downloads a month, you can be certain of two things: The novel is exciting, and the audio will eventually become a print version. For podcaster J. C. Hutchins, that moment is now, and that novel is 7th Son: Descent.

Those of us who prefer the printed page to audio formats are grateful for the opportunity that St. Martin’s Griffin has given us in producing the three volume trilogy that comprises Hutchins’ original podcast. 7th Son: Descent is the first of the trilogy and in it we are introduced to the titular characters and background of this techno-thriller.

The story opens with the killing of the President of the United States by a four-year old boy. Shifting rapidly from this prologue, we are introduced one by one to the men, all named John Michael Smith, who all unknowingly created as part of a secret government experiment in the 1970s. All seven men are identical in face and form, though each has taken different career paths. There is the gay Marine, the Roman Catholic priest, the insane computer hacker, the family-man scientist, the married U.N. diplomat, the semi-famous criminal profiler, and the wayward musician. Brought together secretly, they soon learn about their mysterious past and that only they can stop the man who killed the president, their progenitor, the first John Michael Smith.

Hutchins sure has the stuff of a great thriller in this story. There is the government conspiracy, the supervillain, the band of unique heroes, and technology worthy of a Bond flick. However, although the thrilling action is profuse and exciting, Hutchins is careful not to sacrifice character over thrills and chills.

Though each character at one point or another gets his time in the sun, the primary protagonists in 7th Son: Descent are the musician, the priest, and the military man. It is they who bring together a demoralized group, work to solve the puzzles their progenitor laid down for them, and who explore the moral implications of the cloning that created them.

The priest, especially, is interesting to me, as a person of faith. Upon learning who and what he is, this John Michael Smith goes through a significant crisis of faith. Hutchins does a good job making the padre intimate to the reader, and anyone who has ever doubted their beliefs (whether you change them or stayed the same) will identify. The priest is also used by Hutchins to explore, to a limited extent the moral implications of such a process as cloning humans, certainly a hot button topic a few years ago, and one that could still flare up at any time.

GLBT readers will likely be pleased that their community is represented in Mike the military man. He is a sympathetic but strong character, one whom a reader will respect but with whom even heterosexuals can sympathize during his phone call to his lover.

The story itself is certainly thrilling, to an extent. Because of the time spent in characterization, though there is a lot of tension, there is not a lot of action. This first novel has lots of character and world building, but only a limited amount of physical confrontation. I would have preferred a little more of Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne and a little less Da Vinci Code. Fortunately, Hutchins does tension well, so though there is less action in this novel, it is not a great loss.

7th Son: Descent is a great thriller novel with science fiction elements. It reads like something you would find filed alongside Ian Fleming or Robert Ludlum and not Isaac Asimov or Robert A. Heinlein. As such, it is certainly entertaining and for those looking for a bit of thrilling escapism this may be you book. Be aware that the story does not complete the entire arc in this first book, so it is open-ended, but it certainly prepares the way for an extremely exciting conclusion.

Review copy provided by St. Martin’s Griffin.

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