The Caline Conspiracy
by M. H. Mead
genre: mystery, science fiction
Calines are genetically engineered “dogs” designed to purr, calm the senses, and feel baby smooth. They are genetically engineered and custom made to accommodate their master’s allergies and be the perfect companion. Smarter and better trained than dogs, they are incapable of hurting a human being… or is that just what they advertise? Madeline, the Caline companion of a top genetic scientist is accused of murdering her master and the evidence against her is open and shut. Everyone but the widow seems convinced she did it, even the detective hired to prove her innocent, but there’s alot of money and motherly instinct tied up in this case.
I don’t usually read sci-fi, that tends to be more Ermisenda’s department, but when it’s not weighed down with all of the futuristic hub-ub I really enjoy it. The Caline Conspiracy is set in the not too distant US. I had a brief moment where I wondered if the authors were from abroad because they used the metric system, but I guess they think that’s where the US is going. Other than that, and the gene manipulation mentioned in the synopsis, the setting is very close to reality. Some of the wording was a little odd (probably because I don’t usually read sci-fi). for example, the detective’s assistant would spit her files and she would grab them before they hit her inbox or something off like that. I felt it took away a little, but I may have sci-fi fans argue I’m being critical of the genre for that one rather than the book itself.As for the mystery, I figured out the who, but not the why. I love mystery, but I get more wrapped up in the story than trying to predict the next leads in the case, so for any hard-core I want there to be some major smoke and mirrors misdirection, you might be disappointed. That is not to say there wasn’t a major twist I didn’t see coming. As I said, I didn’t figure out the “why” and I felt the authors spent a great deal more time focusing the plot on the why than the who. For me, that worked out fine; I really enjoyed the novel and I would be a lost cause on an author trying to misdirect me because I wasn’t trying to begin with.
Overall, enjoyed almost everything. It never dragged, but the end was much faster than the beginning. The characters were well written and their actions driven by motive as opposed to the authors’ whim. I’m still on the fence about whether I would want a Caline or their feline counterparts. If I had one already, it wouldn’t change my feelings, but knowing everything up front… you’ll have to read the book to find out why.
I really think The Caline Conspiracy would make a good book club book. All it would need is a discussion guide at the back because it’s got some great political themes and discussion prompts embedded throughout. What makes it okay* for scientist to alter animal genes but not human genes? Do the ends ever justify the means? Where is the line between pet and family member? What are the rights of a mother vs. the rights of society?
Can love be conditional? “I only love you until I know you’re not my biological child.” “I only love you until I find out you’re homosexual.” “I only love you while I fulfill my failures dreams through your success.” Does it negate the love you felt for someone or something when you didn’t know the full picture? Can you love something without knowing the full story in the first place?
There’s more, but you’ll have to read the book or they won’t make sense.
4 out of 5 stars
This book is for you if
- You prefer “near future” sci-fi settings.
- You enjoy the story surrounding a mystery as much or more than the actual mystery
This book is not for you if
- You want lasers, teleportation pads, and other futuristic gadgets in your sci-fi novels.
- You want to be given alot of misdirection
*I realize not everyone thinks it’s okay to manipulate genetics at all, but since it’s not illegal, that’s the definition of “okay” in this context.
Disclosure: This review at the request of the author; I received a free copy of the book, but it did not sway my review in any way. To submit a review request for your novel or see what other books we’ve reviewed, please check the Book Reviews page.
Meet the authors
Margaret Yang and Harry R. Campion write under the shared pen name M.H. Mead. They are the co-authors of FATE’S MIRROR, GOOD FENCES, and THE CALINE CONSPIRACY. Harry is a teacher, Margaret a stay-at-home mom, and they are married–but not to each other. They’ve been friends since college and co-authors for ten years. More about them can be found on their website www.yangandcampion.com or you can find them on facebook Facebook.com/MHMead