Title: Halfskin (Halfskin #1)
Author: Tony Bertauski
Genres: Dystopia | Science Fiction | Speculative Fiction
Length: 276 pages | 3661 locations
In this world, scientists have developed biomites, which are basically nanorobots that act as clones for our cells, fixing anything that is wrong with us, even boosting our natural skills.
Throughout the book, we follow Nix and his sister Cali trying to survive the government, since when people develop 50% biomites they are marked as halfskin and therefore disconnected. That is, killed.
As you can imagine, such technology and measures to cope with it will trigger all sorts of ethical arguments, which the book also explores.
Halfskin gripped me from the beginning. This is a perfect example of a well written book. It is so rich and yet never heavy because the language is extremely accessible and it keeps a great pace.
When I read that first part, my first impression was that there were a lot of characters. But as the narrative advanced, I could keep up with most of them easily enough. I was baffled at how such an ordinary situation, one all of us can relate to in our own lives, could open the door to such a wondrous world, where everyone wants to be seeded with biomites. These things will cure any disease, and overall enhance your physical and intellectual abilities. Naturally, everyone wants them, but by law people can only get them at 15 years old.
After that, the narrative advances 10 years, and we are shown a blog post that sounded so realistic. If something like this ever happened, I could totally see someone posting something along those lines.
During most of the book, we get to see what Nix and his sister Cali are thinking and going through. However, every now and then, the story is interspersed with accounts of what appears to the first people seeded – their newfound abilities and everyone’s reaction. That means that, although we do not know how the world came to be, we get to discover little by little a bit of the beginning of biomites being introduced to society. It’s the best of two worlds and, as I said, it’s never a bad or boring/confusing thing.
This is probably not a new theme in sci-fi. However, the way it was approached was innovative and just plain brilliant. Not only because of the narrative construction above mentioned, but also because it is such a thought-provoking book. It manages to get us thinking about all sorts of issues, and even wonder whether the bad guy may be right about some things. Is this how God intended us to evolve? At which point do you stop being human? These and several other questions are addressed, and I for one felt there was not a clear answer to them.
The story had just the right pace. I have to admit I felt it was a bit slow at times, but the wonderful writing still kept me interested. In some sequences, the prose had a dreamlike, almost poetic quality that I thoroughly enjoyed, even though it is usually not my cup of tea. The story was mysterious and suspenseful but very clear, and the imagery reflected was stunning, particularly of the lagoon. Some scenes were very touching, and I was absolutely mesmerized at the thought of people crying charcoal tears because of the biomites, not to mention the grey blood.
The technology is obviously astounding as well, and there really isn’t much wrong with this book. It wasn’t perfect, of course. There were a few sentences I wished had been phrased differently, and sometimes I felt the verb tenses weren’t correct, like Nix just finished draining the dishwasher when the doorbell rang; I would think had just finished would be the correct form. There were other similar issues here and there, no big deal.
There were a few instances where I felt that a transition was missing, or a more adequate one was needed. For instance, when I was reading a bit from a previous time frame and then the narrative returned to present day, or vice versa, that transition wasn’t always very clear. I think just a blank line between the two paragraphs would have made a huge difference.
I have to say I think things got a bit repetitive with Marcus Anderson going on and on about how biomites would be the end of humankind… I mean, I’d read it not only when he was thinking it, but pretty much every single time he talked with someone. It was a bit too much.
And that cover… Yeah, it could definitely be better.
Some spoilery thoughts: I didn’t really get why Nix was taken when he was 39,8 and Cali was allowed to walk around at 39,9. Was it because of her connections? I’d think that to a guy like Marcus that wouldn’t really matter. And I definitely did not get how Nix could speak to Avery. I mean, how would he even know where to look?
Two final comments: I have to say I feel a bit uneasy about how life could be in a world where everyone can read each other’s thoughts and access all sorts of private information. And I would have liked to know if the new breed of biomites will have the same issue as the previous one, of self-replicating, or if a solution will be found to stop that. I hope those things will be addressed in the next book of the series.
But overall, this is simply a great sci-fi book.
There were plenty of plot twists, especially in the last quarter of the book, and my interest never really waned. If there were things that might not even been thoroughly explained, or may have come off as too easy, the way the story was developed and the wonderful writing totally made up for it, to the point where I cannot actually recall anything major. And when I thought I knew what was going to happen, the author would totally pull the rug from under my feet.
Halfskin was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I cannot recommend it enough. Also, it’s the first book in a series, but it reads just as well as a standalone. Don’t let it slip your mind, get it now!
Disclaimer: I would like to thank the author for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Read from Jun 04 to Jun 06, 2015