The Venom of Vipers is a science fiction novel by KC May.
A supervirus is threatening to wipe out the human race and the only hope may be a human hybrid created by scientists, treated as sub human, locked away and hated. When a brilliant young scientist learns of this secret she must not only fight to gain his trust but also protect him from the purists set out to destroy them all.
This is the second novel I have read by KC May, the first was the medieval fantasy "The Kinshield Legacy" which I really enjoyed. The Venom of Vipers is about as far away from that vision as you can possible get, and yet even more impressive. I must admit that I do have a soft spot for the apocalyptic and dystopian story, there is just something about mankind's struggle and a changed (often scorched) earth that appeals. The Venom of Vipers handles this with an incredible degree of intelligence, drama and verve.
Set in the near future (2023), the human race is on the verge of extinction due to a pandemic of a virus known as moliomyositis (molio for short) that has no cure. Faced with the imminent end to mankind, scientists develop a new breed of human, one that can survive the effects of the virus, by splicing the DNA of reptiles with our own. The Saphers (as the new breed are known) are very close to human (with a few visual differences) but can resist molio, the only problem is that they can't reproduce and unless that issue is resolved, both races could face extinction.
It's an interesting premise and a nice slant on the whole apocalypse angle and it's told in a remarkably clear and intelligent manner. The plot is just superb, we've got the impending collapse of the whole human race - we already see the signs of civilization slowly collapsing. Then we've got this new form of homo sapien who are denied the basic rights of a human. On top of that you've got racism and discrimination against the Saphers and then the failed reproduction, an engineered race with no future.
Fighting against these scientist's trying to rescue humanity are two distinct groups, those who want the Saphers to have the same rights that we do (ie freedom) and those who think they are a perversion of science and should be wiped out. The plot follows these ideas in different directions and it is a book that demand's your undivided attention.
Characterisation is spot on, evoking much emotion from the protagonists, Kate, Evie, Ryder and Nelson are all wonderfully portrayed and really lead the story.
Essentially the Venom of Vipers is an exploration of the human condition, we explore the darker sides of humanity and the depths that people will plunge to, especially in the face of adversity. That humanities creation is more humane than we are (collectively) is a theme often explored and played out here to great effect, it's all handled with a degree of acuity, insight and imagination.
The Venom of Vipers is insightful, creative and just such an incredible piece of fiction, highly recommended.
Written on Wednesday 9th February 2011 by Antony.
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