Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Table of contents
Shanon Hunt Conducts the Genetic Experiment
As scientific progress allowed us to manipulate elements on an increasingly smaller scale, somewhere down the line, we’ve thrown ourselves on the path of genetic research, blowing the door of possibilities wide open to both the best and worst scenarios we’re capable of imagining.
From curing diseases from entire bloodlines to creating quasi-superhumans or even serving as fuel for new (and most likely racist) philosophies, we may very well have opened Pandora’s Box. In Shanon Hunt‘s first novel, The Pain Colony, we get a glimpse at one such scenario, not too far away from the possibilities we’ll have in the near future.
The story begins by introducing us to DEA Special Agent Peter Malloy, with a good amount of experience behind his back. One day, six bodies turn up, all with strange surgical ports implanted into their spines. At first, Malloy believes some kind of new drug to be the culprit, but when the lab results come back to show they were all completely sober, he begins to realize something far darker and more dangerous might be afoot.
Our second character, Allison Stevens, finds herself targeted by the FBI after her boss suddenly disappears, leaving behind him secret genetic research into pain tolerance. Pushed into a corner by the authorities who would rather make sure neither she nor the research see the light of day again, Allison sees her only way out as exposing the illegal experiment, one many are protecting with their own lives.
Starting at different ends of the equation, Malloy and Stevens both work to get closer and closer to the truth, making more than a few shocking discoveries along the way to unravelling what might just be the greatest conspiracy humanity has run afoul of.
The Ambitious Grasp of The Pain Colony
Generally-speaking, when new authors are writing their first published works, they try and keep things more straightforward and simple in an attempt to avoid the ages-old problem of having their reach exceed their grasp. For The Pain Colony, however, Shanon Hunt didn’t play the timid game for even a little bit, orchestrating a fairly grandiose story with a few good twists and a whole lot of characters to keep track of.
Speaking of these characters, while by the end of the book I felt like there were a few too many of them for me to accurately remember, I did enjoy their presence in the story as I was reading it. They all play their own roles in the appropriate moments pretty flawlessly (if a bit obviously at times), and they have more characterization than I would have expected for their overall level of importance.
Now, I do think Hunt‘s lack of experience as an author does show at times when the story becomes a bit more convoluted and difficult to follow. It’s almost inevitable to have numerous plot lines with so many different characters in play, and while it is apparent Hunt put a lot of effort in making them flow together, I do think the book would have benefited from dialing the scale down just a bit.
Personally-speaking, I found this to be only a minor problem, especially since the main plot threads were always clearly-visible and easy to understand. Additionally, once I got more familiar with the world and it’s people, I did have an easier time following them and visualizing their actions.
The Genetic Storm of the Century
While on a technical level the book does leave a couple of things to be desired, I think where it really shines is the structure of the plot and the ideas it throws forward, which come together and throw us into a hurricane of a pace where we are trying to put the big picture together at the same time as our characters.
Though Malloy and Allison are our main characters and take up more page space than their secondary peers, they too get their own short chapters where we follow them just long enough to see what they learn and get a glimpse of what might await them.
While I admit it was disorienting at first to keep jumping here and there between various people I didn’t yet know and their seemingly unrelated stories, I ended up growing fond of this structure for the amount of action and constant forward momentum it brings to the table.
As for the actual plot itself, there are some pretty good twists spaced throughout the thing, as well as a couple of semi-predictable ones I think fans of the genre in general will recognize. I didn’t know it when I started the book, but what ended up really drawing me in above anything were Hunt‘s explorations of genetic engineering.
She puts her fifteen years as a pharmaceutical executive to good use and does her best to depict, within realistic boundaries, the actual possibilities of genetic science, how they might be used for both good and evil, and perhaps most importantly, how they can reshape our society beyond recognition.
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Though today Hunt‘s vision of the near-future might almost sound like science-fiction, it is very much within our realistic possibilities. Come to think of it, this should also earn the book a classification as a horror novel.
The Final Verdict
Though technically-rough in a couple of areas, The Pain Colony by Shanon Hunt is an amazing debut novel, with the author showing a tremendous amount of promise with her ability to weave a compelling, fast-paced story with a rich, detailed and plausible world used to explore the potential ramifications of our scientific endeavours.
If you are a fan of medical thrillers, and especially if you’re interested in the topic of genetic engineering, I think this book would be more than worth your time and attention.
Shanon Hunt is an American author who worked for 15 years as a pharmaceutical executive, giving her an insider’s view of the world her peers can only envy.
In 2019, after she took interest in the near future implementations of genetic engineering, she published her first book, a medical suspense thriller titled The Pain Colony. The second novel in the series, The Rage Colony, is set to come out on October 1st, 2020.