3 out of 4 stars
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The Swarm Project by Tim Akerman is a compelling science fiction novel that catapults readers tens of millions of years back. Spinning an interesting tale around human origins and behavior, the narrative kicks off in Alpha Centauri and ends on Earth. It also touches on the asteroid that caused massive extinction sixty-five million years ago.
In order to quell the threat posed by a rebellious faction in their mercenaries, the Elfinnim (an advanced species of the planet, Elfinn, of the star system Alpha Centauri) develop a bioweapons project, which would become known as the Swarm Project. This project saw the creation of a deadly, territorial, and aggressive life form with a limited life-span designed to protect the Elfinnim society from devolving into chaos while minimizing pointless loss of Elfinnim life. However, everything begins to go downhill when one of the prototypes in the swarm, indistinguishable from the Elfinnim, escapes. Making matters worse is the fact that the prototype seems to have developed independent thoughts and emotions and is now working against them. These events prompt the Elfinnim Grand Council to appoint an investigator from the warrior caste, Hal Balal, to investigate and stop the rogue prototype. Can one rogue prototype instigate the end of an entire species? Is it working alone and what are its motives? Will Hal and his team successfully end the dangerous bioweapon before it destroys them?
The author skillfully weaves an intricate story filled with suspense and intense moments as secrets, deception, paranoia, unauthorized projects, betrayal, and murder abound. A definite plus for me was that the main characters had depth, life, and a number of facets to them that made them believable and interesting to follow. Another interesting aspect was that the characters weren’t always what they seemed; I enjoyed peeling back the layers and discovering who they truly were good or bad. Also, the relationship dynamic between the characters, whether it was a growing conflict or a budding romance, was entertaining but still felt authentic.
One of the best parts of this novel is that there is a good amount of scientific detail to support the story. This not only impressed me but kept me turning pages, as it gave the narrative a more authentic feel. Another element that was expertly done was the world building; without bogging the story down, the author provides adequate details of the characters way of life, their world, and how everything works. Thus, there’s not a moment I didn’t feel immersed whether it was on Earth, Elfinn, or on a spaceship. Because the war between the Elfinnim and the escaped prototype was so complex, it was difficult to choose sides that I eventually found myself hoping for a peaceful resolution and ending.
Though I liked that the third-person narration shifted focus to different characters on different sides of the war interchangeably, I did not like the amount of unnecessary repetition of the same events and details as it did slow the pace. Proper editing could bring the page count down considerably with no noticeable omissions. I also noticed inconsistent punctuation of introductory words/phrases; sometimes there was a comma, and most times, the comma was omitted (which I found this a little distracting). Lastly, the character, Ruby, was referred to by another name, Rose, which left me confused and checking if another character had entered the room/discussion without me noticing.
Aside from the few hiccups mentioned, this was an extremely interesting read with an epic ending. I would recommend this novel to those who appreciate details in science fiction and stories that revolve around creation/origins. All things considered, I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars.
The Swarm Project
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