The Colony
by Blaine C. Readler
Full Arc Press

"For a moment he was stunned to inaction by the surreal image. It was the hand of a human, but made of flowing, flexible metal instead of flesh."

Bucolic rural Wisconsin is rocked by murderous machines in this sci-fi thriller. On the heels of his recent novel, Off the Grid, about genetically engineered, blood-thirsty ferrets, Readler steps farther toward the fantastic. This time the enemy is a colony of tiny, metal, crab-like creatures that have learned how to link up and cooperate to wreak havoc. The "crablets" quickly evolve from being able to fashion themselves into small birds to being able to mesh into massive, intelligent monsters intent on hunting down humans. Kiel, who is a drifter, and the farm family that welcomes him find themselves in a life-and-death battle with an increasingly lethal enemy.

That the story is set in Wisconsin could have been more distinctly articulated. Save the occasional mention of a place name, this could have been anywhere in the Midwest. However, Readler is an excellent writer and the novel wonderfully succeeds. Characters are well developed. The premise—that tiny bits of metal can evolve into monsters—feels at the same time perfectly plausible and utterly preposterous, a hallmark of great science fiction. A variety of secondary plot threads, including Kiel's murky background and the crablets' mysterious origin, lend depth yet are sufficiently reined in to not detract from the primary trajectory. Ultimately, this is a story of bloody suspense, and Readler keeps that focus tight. Once the action hits full throttle, it never looks back. The author also draws on his own engineering background, lending complexity and believability to the story's scientific elements. Intense and chilling, a first-rate page-turner.

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