The author is known for his reality-based plots where he mixes facts of all kinds with pure fiction. Sometimes it is really frightening about what could be possible and you have inevitable the question swirling around your mind if it couldn´t be already a reality. So what if there are already living children like Jill and Eugene among us? I had enjoyed another book by the author so much, that I knew when I got the letter about Helix, I had to read it. Lucky me, I won it for a special challenge at a forum and could jump into it. Nonetheless, this review expresses my honest and unbiased opinion.

Helix-Sie Werden Uns Ersetzen*
by Marc Elsberg
Publisher Blanvalet on October 31, 2016
Genre Thriller
Pages 646
Format Hardcover
Source Lovelybooks

The US Secretary of State dies at a State visit in Munich. During the autopsy a strange sign is found on his heart – caused by bacteria? In Brasil, Tanzania, and India, employees of an international chemical company discover crop plants and animals that can not be found. At the same time, Helen and Greg, a couple in their late thirties, who cannot produce children by natural means, turn to a children´s nursing clinic in California. The doctor gives them hope. He tells them about a – yet unofficial – private research program, which has already produced over a hundred special children. And do not Helen and Greg want to give their offspring the best prerequisites? But then one of these children disappears and everything points to a connection with strange events – not only in Munich but all over the world … (a personal translation of the blurb on the dust cover/German edition by © Vi at Inkvotary).
Helen and Greg are trying to become children. Since they can´t get what they want the natural way, they find themselves one day at a clinic in California where they get an incredible offer. Jessica is on her way back to the US after she had to witness the sudden breakdown of the Secretary of State. And Jegor finds in Tanzania a cornfield that shouldn´t exist and starts to look for the reasons why it does. And Jill vanishes from the earth after she heard the disturbing news about the sudden death of the Secretary of State. All of them are connected in a strange way through a Doctor who is able to make his dream come true: stronger, healthier and smarter children.

Helix-Sie werden uns ersetzen (in English it would be Helix-They will replace us) is told by an auctorial narrator and the reader is from the first line right in the middle of the plot. The Secretary of State lies unconscious on the ground and with his death, the US discover a virus that is beyond anything they ever imagined or thought could be possible.

The author builds a story in which facts and pure fiction are combined so easily that you can´t get rid of the feeling of what if something of this is already a reality? Or would it really be so frightening to have children like described in the story? At some point, I found myself in a weird situation. I couldn´t take some figures of the plot seriously anymore. The way they behaved, how they acted was something I couldn´t really understand. Yes, there are some kids who have very special abilities, yes they are smarter than anyone else in the world, but they didn´t ask for it. They were made that way and now some grownups react as if they were dangerous weapons? 

Marc Elsberg draws a picture with sometimes hilarious scenes, an ironic tone and some characters that show their helplessness and their fear for the unknown. He explains difficult medical things in an easy to understand language, makes it very clear that what he describes is fiction but could actually already be happening and yet the message is clear: This is a book. A story that should entertain, not scare. 
And yet I was not the way entertained as I was with his other book. With Helix you go on a journey around the globe. Dive into fields in Tanzania, be a part of a conference in Europe, get inside in a chemical concern somewhere in Scandinavia, and back. Well, kind of.
No doubt, Marc Elsberg shows what could be, and no doubt that you will find some great scenes in this book. But after a great start, the story went more and more downwards and the end was lame. An open-end, which can be really very inspiring and lets you think your own thoughts about it, but I expected after all I read by him already, a lot more.

That the human species is frightened or feels threatened by everything that is not what we think is normal, that isn´t controllable the way we are used to, is no news. We see it every day in our real lives. But what some characters do in this story, and how some handle the situation, in the end, that was something I didn´t find ok at all. The hypocrisy that is shown here makes you speechless – not in a good way. Money rules everything, no news either.

Jill is a young girl that made me speechless – in a good way. She is smart as hell, no average at all and what she wants for the world is the best I´ve ever seen in a book like this. She does everything to help others, to undo the disadvantage some folks on this planet have. And she succeeds in a way that looks so easy and simple, that others feel threatened by her. I was not happy at all how the author treated her in the end.

After I had enjoyed his other thriller so much, I have sadly to admit that this newest wasn´t really my thing. His style hasn´t changed, but in the end, I was a bit disappointed. I missed his brilliance he is famous for when it comes to connecting fiction with reality. 

Happy reading

*This title was at the time of review only available in the German language. 

Marc Elsberg
Marc Elsberg ©Clemens Lechner

Marc Elsberg was born 1967 in Vienna, Austria. He was a strategy consultant and creative director for advertising in Vienna and Hamburg as well as columnist of the Austrian daily newspaper “Der Standard”. With his international bestsellers BLACKOUT and ZERO, he also established himself as a master of the science thriller. Today he lives and works in Vienna.


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