Sometime in the not very distant future, genetic engineering makes a quantum leap and becomes a thing that can be done; unsurprisingly, there are consequences for Olympic competition, resulting in the spin-off event of gladiatorial combat using creatures where the only limitation is "no human DNA."
Of course shit gets sideways. What else do you expect from the guy who wrote Half-Life and Portal?
The protagonists are interesting; the main human villian isn't. The genetic critter is interesting; the exploration of its origin is a weirdly handled confabulation of technical handwavium wrapped around an unexplained handful of motivations.
FORESHADOWING: LET ME BRICK YOU UPSIDE THE HEAD WITH IT.
The opening chapter makes next to no sense, even with the rest of the book as context; I mean, it's a perfectly reasonable scene, but it doesn't fit in with anything else (unlike, say, the ludicrous backstory openings that are Clive Cussler's schtick), unless something got hacked out of the "monologuing" scene at the first climax that added something coherent for it to hang on.
There's some good-enough science, and some, "No, dude, that REALLY doesn't work like that" facepalmery. I kind of want to smack Ted with a Physics 101 textbook.
I'm willing to forgive AI motivations that aren't recognizably human, but they have to make *some* kind of goddamned sense, and a lot of the ones here don't. And the underlying WTFery behind the AI ties into the WTFery of the dislocated intro, so it's extra servings of, "Okay, why the fuck?"
I do grant extra points for killing people that a less-clever book wouldn't, but it's a complete whiff when you get into Bechdel test territory. I'd try to make some kind of coherent thematic statement about the role of family that threads throughout it, but there isn't one, it's just present because families exist.
Three and a quarter genetically-engineered gladiatorial creatures out of five; if you don't think too hard, it's a fun story with some good tension and action scenes even if there are some structural weaknesses.