Why was such life wasted . . . on a mortal?
In Cain, science creates a soulless monster that rebels and starts on a killing spree; our heroes must stop it. If this sounds like Leviathan, Huggins’ previous novel, yes, and that’s why I disliked Cain quite a bit when I first read it back in college. At the time, it felt very much like Huggins just redoing the plot from Leviathan only with a human monster instead of a dragon. That’s still kind of true. This book, like Leviathan, also features a bad-ass priest struggling with a crisis of faith and his plot ends EXACTLY like Thor’s did in Leviathan. But reading Cain again now, I saw a lot of differences. This one is much more of a horror novel in some ways; there’s a sequence in which Cain, the scientifically enhanced, demonically possessed serial killer, finds himself at an isolated hospital and its really disturbing in a real horror movie way. Also, Huggins makes this book much more explicitly about evil. Cain is a super-soldier that has died; his body has been kept alive for a kind of Six-Million Dollar Man type government project, but a body from which the soul has already fled is an open invitation and Satan possesses the body and sets out on a murdering spree. Not metaphorically; it’s LITERALLY Satan and Huggins actually does some really interesting writing from the perspective of Cain/Satan. Huggins ties the way Satan inhabits the soulless body of Cain back to the Jewish myth of the Golem in some interesting ways. If anything, Huggins’ skill at action has gotten better; there are some action sequences here that are just unbearably intense, like a violent confrontation in a deserted museum, a face to face struggle between Cain and our hero, Solomon, on an elevator or the final climax between four weary heroes and Cain’s army of sword wielding maniacs. This is pulp at its most satisfying, insanely well-written action, starkly drawn lines of good and evil, just enough philosophical underpinning to make the book feel atmospheric and spiritual. Reading it this time, darned if it didn’t feel kind of like an improvement on Leviathan. Maybe that’s because I went into it with fairly low expectations this time. Regardless, it’s a thrill-a-minute page-turner. 4 stars.
tl;dr – a retired soldier & a struggling priest take on a physically enhanced, serial killing, demon-possessed super-soldier; as high functioning as pulp gets, a non-stop thrill ride. 4 stars.