Declassified Events by Fouad Kazan is an action-driven science fiction/horror novel about cruel and unusual experiments being conducted at a research island – think The Island of Doctor Moreau – but the hybrid creatures are being turned into weapons. Criminal Chris Hopkins is stolen out of prison and taken to the aptly-named Predator Island. Hopkins must struggle to navigate this horrifying environment. He doesn’t just have to escape the creatures, but becoming one one of the creatures himself.
Chris Hopkins is a compelling central character. Convicted of murder, he’s not exactly a good guy, which actually makes the island seem all the more dangerous, and makes the work by the obsessed Dr. Sullivan seem all the more sadistic. The experiments are just that evil, as the reader sympathizes with someone who’s committed evil acts himself. But he also wants to make good with his life, so the reader is pulling for him on more than one level.
Additionally, Dr. Sullivan himself is a convincing and harrowing antagonist, bent on completing his work no matter what; he’s as horrific as the creatures he’s designing. Another researcher, Jill, offers some balance, as she thinks the research has gone to far. Some books have comic relief – Jill offers some humanity in an environment where it’s sorely lacking.
The island is like a character in itself, and it’s also very well done, with obstacles you don’t see coming. Predator Island is at once completely insane and eerily plausible. Certainly, hybrid man-creatures takes some suspension of disbelief. But in the era of Jurassic Park, gene splicing hardly seems like an improbable premise. Kazan’s attention to detail brings the horrific island truly to life. It’s tense, at times revolting, with action on nearly every page.
This is a thinking person’s science fiction novel: the narrative manages to be at once philosophical and page turning. Kazan skillfully intertwines pontifications about the nature of human life and action. In his author description he promises “page-turning stories devoid of long, boring descriptions and complicated language.” That’s not always the case – not that it’s boring, but he does wax eloquently on a number of different topics. The premise of the novel offers a springboard for talking about religion, ethics, and how quickly people can go from good to evil, and Kazan does so effectively. Human torture, for one, is in mainstream headlines these days, offering another dose of reality in the novel that takes it from the realm of fiction into something much more creepy and recognizable.
One issue with the book is that it needs another round of editing. It’s not a deal breaker, but stray incorrect words here and there do detract from the narrative. As English possibly isn’t Lebanese author Kazan’s first language, it’s impressive that the book is as readable as it is despite this.
Overall, this is a deftly-written novel with a surprising amount of depth for a book that’s about a subject like hybrid monsters. For the conspiracy-minded, or those who like their science fiction with a dose of horror, Declassified Events is a disturbing but exciting read.
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