Title: Clay (Halfskin #2)
Author: Tony Bertauski
Narrator: David Dietz
Genres: Dystopia | Science Fiction | Speculative Fiction
Length: 8 hrs and 47 mins
Source: Audible | Giveaway
20 years after the events of Halfskin, people are getting illegal biomites (nixes), to escape M0ther’s radar.
However, the government is aware of this, so they created Bricks, fabricated beings entirely composed of biomites. They are capable of identifying the illegal biomites and shutting them down.
In the meantime, Nix is trying to give Raine a body, so that she can exist outside of his Dreamland.
Jamie might just be the answer to all of Nix’s problems.
First impression I got when I started listening to Clay was that the narrator had a very pleasant voice but spoke way too fast. Then he evened out to a more steady pace. Throughout the book, I still had to stop and rewind on several occasions to let the concepts sink in, but only at key moments.
I do have to say that I felt all his male and most of the female voices sounded the same (except for Mother’s); it was particularly difficult to distinguish some male voices from the narrator’s one, and for some reason all the women sounded annoying and whiny. This obviously caused me to lose interest in the characters. Or rather, I had to constantly remind myself they were not annoying and whiny, just sounded that way. I don’t even get why he did them that way. He obviously had the tone right, just the inflexion was not pleasant at all.
I did enjoy listening to the book most of the time. But I have come to the realization that I will simply never be able to pay as much attention and grasp the story as well while listening to a book as I do reading it. I was unable to set my own pace and imagine each voice the way I wanted, which was even weirder because I had read Book #1 and so had already formed most voices in my head. Needless to say they did not match at all with what I listened to.
Onto the story.
Clay continues to address several of the questions asked in Halfskin; one of the biggest ones is what makes us human? or at what point do we cease to be human?, amongst lots of fun/scary/emotional stuff.
Regarding the characters we met in the previous book: Cali and Nix falling apart over the years, as well as their struggles and rest of their character development, was all very believable.
I also enjoyed the development of Marcus Anderson. Amazing how religious zealots always feel their actions are justified, even if they are qualified as sins by their own definition.
And his end was so ironic.
I had not thought the technology in Clay could get much better than in Halfskin. I was wrong.
Glazed eyes when thought chatting, using facial recognition and browsing the internet in general.
Perception fields, which allow you to engage others in your feelings and thought projections.
Dreamland cafes, where you can transport yourself to a different reality.
Facial reconfiguration, the new plastic surgery.
M0ther having a physical representation and its sentience being developed in a total opposite way than usual – and her garden, oh, that garden…
Fabricating living beings from scratch.
The idea of a Brick is terrifying. They are not your ordinary robot from other sci-fi creations. They look and act like your perfectly normal human being, right down to showing empathy and other human emotions.
The addictive character of biomites was also something I enjoyed listening about. They don’t only enhance your skills; they also allow you to alter your feelings and emotions and, well, act pretty much like a drug. Can you imagine, never feeling sad or depressed ever again?
However, with all the good things, I just did not connect with this story as much as Halfskin. I don’t know if it’s only because I listened to the book as opposed to reading it. The voices thing really put me off, especially the female ones, but I don’t know if it’s just that. The characters just felt more vapid to me and I especially could not connect to Jamie and her emo attitude. The not dealing with emotions thing, wanting to shed her body and so on really put me off. I appreciated her character growth but most of what I listened about her wasn’t very engaging.
Also, the pace. In the previous book, whenever I was reading slower bits, I wouldn’t mind the reduced pace because the descriptions would be so beautiful and enthralling, and later I always seemed to come to the conclusion that it had all had a purpose the whole time.
In this one, I constantly felt not much was happening, without that sense of involvement and closure to even things out, especially in the first half of the book. It did get better after that.
Then there were things I just didn’t get, and I was left with a bunch of questions. Some were answered by the end, others weren’t. Examples:
How were Callie and others able to create this awesome strain of biomites but never solve the self-replicating issue of the old ones?
How exactly did Nix want Jamie to help him? For a long time I could not understand how the pill she swallowed related to finding fabricators, and I still think the explanation was too easy.
When and how did he even become a scientist, researching in the lab like his sister?
And how did he know how to transfer Raine to a body?
Why were the old biomites not implemented before 15 years of age and these didn’t have an age limit? The old ones had to wait because they would affect puberty but the new ones were seeded on newborns. I do not recall hearing an explanation for that.
Why exactly was the hospital shut down, or whatever happened that they could not help patients any longer?
How was the bank guy’s office safe from M0ther’s scrutinize?
I also did not get why Cali thought that by killing herself all bricks would die as well. As far as I remember all shut downs had been individual up to that point, so how could something like this happen, unless ordered by Mother? And I am pretty sure at that point she did not know it was Mother doing it?
There was some repetitiveness again, and then there were a couple of inconsistencies, like Nix saying Cali wanted to help Jamie because Avery would have been her age. Now I really suck at math, but I clearly remember Avery being breastfed when Nix was 8, so there is no chance she would be 19 when he was 39.
And we are told that before people needed to be 12 years old to be seeded, when it was 15.
I was not happy that the notion of being charred wasn’t explained until the second half of the book, and even then I am not quite sure I grasped the entire concept: is it derived to spending too much time in Dreamland, or working up biomites well past their limit, or not getting fed and sleeping, or all of the above?
I was pretty disappointed at the ending , and not just the thing with Cali. I had hoped Nix and Raine would exist in dreamland and have children there, but even if not, how the heck could a child be born without his supposed mother getting pregnant? Nix just imagined the boy? Doesn’t give me as much closure as I had hoped.
And one of the things I always wondered about was the matter of life expectancy. If the new breeds of biomites were no longer self-replicating, in theory this means people would be able to live much longer without the danger of being shut down by the government or dying from disease, right? Would that not lead to overpopulation? I would have liked to see that addressed.
So, with all these issues, why the 4 stars?
The fact is the book still engaged me. The plot twists, even if not as satisfying as the ones in the previous book, kept me on edge, and there were plenty of surprises.
Most of the development of previous ideas, tech, plot, characters – everything I mentioned previously – still held me strong.
In conclusion, despite having difficulty connecting to the characters because of the narration, I was still enthralled by most of the story and writing. I have no doubt I would have felt more engaged if I had read it, but I still enjoyed Clay very much.
And I am very curious to know what happens in the third book. I would especially like to see a more detailed explanation to Dreamland. Where did all that stuff come from, if Nix maintains it wasn’t all imagined by him?
Is there really an alternate reality?
Can one exist there?
As a human?
What does it mean to be human?
Tony Bertauski’s world is full of possibilities and I thoroughly recommend this series.
Disclaimer: I won this audiobook in a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Audiobookreviewer.
Listened to from Jun 07 to Jun 10, 2015