Off the Grid: You Can Hide, But You Can't Run
by Blaine Readler
Full Arc Press

"'You have to kill the babies.'
'What are you talking about?'
'Lilly's babies. You have to kill them. They're monsters.'"

In the hands of a lesser writer, this story about the evils of bioengineering could have sunk into tedium and cliche, but Readler's talented hand spins a witty, intelligent thriller. Carl and Fels have relocated to a cabin in the mountains near San Diego. They say they're tired of the city but are really running away from the death of Fels' nephew and a mauled finger that has ended Carl's career as a guitarist. Fels continues to commute to her job at a San Diego genetics lab. When a pregnant female ferret from the lab is left with them, supposedly to hide her from routine inspectors, Carl and Fels inherit more than a furry pet. The deadly events that ensue are chillingly believable in an age of gene manipulation.

Readler does a fine job of organizing the plot. Extraneous angles are minimal. When a new idea, place or character is introduced there's a reason for it. Important plot clues begin appearing on page one but are well-veiled. Only on a second read are they red flags. Readler expertly slips key plot clues into seemingly insignificant conversational banter. And there is a lot of banter between Carl and his neighbor, Defoe, a retired philosophy professor. Abundant infused humor keeps these stretches from miring down. Ditto for weighty science talk that often involves Fels' boss and former fiance, Rik. A limited cast and the isolated mountain location helps keep the story focused and allows for good exploration of individual personalities, including that of the female ferret, Lilly, her kits, and a coyote named Tekumewa. An intense, page-turner conclusion is just one more thing done well. All-around excellent.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

Return to USR Home