What does it mean to be human?
This question burns through- in striking detail- throughout the magnificent Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter.
This book was a fantastic read, and one of my favourite SciFi reads ever! A bold statement and I bloody well mean it!
The human race lies on the brink of destruction. A disease of our own cyber creation. Humans are resorted to genetic modification to erase the plague.
But where there is tragedy of the human condition, there is money to be made!
The corporations responsible for the genetic modification of humans, don’t stop there, and start creating a vast array of people (or Gems) designed to do all sorts of jobs. Tasks that are either much too dangerous for ordinary humans (or norms), and others that are just plain horrific.
Gems are identified by their luminous hair colour; the colour can identify which gem came from a particular gemtech company.
A declaration has been ratified giving the Gems their freedom from the Gemtech companies. Of course, not everyone is happy with this, namely the evangelical religious order the ‘godgangs’ and of course the gemtech companies, one of which is headed by the rather cold and calculating Zavcka Kilst who sees the gems as property and wants to retain the reigns on the gems.
A small community of gems live in what ‘the squats’ their leader the very enigmatic Aryel Morningstar. A small child is under the gems protection strengthening the community’s unity within the squats.
Enter Dr. Eli Walker who has a strenuous task of separating truth from fiction within the opposing factions of the gemtechs and of the gems themselves. Are gems human? Or does their modification make them a machine of mere servitude?
There are so many surprises in this book that you will not suspect. When I read a particular twist I yelled “WHOAHH!” And made my wife jump out of her skin.
I felt as if I was there, among the actions and reactions of the characters. My wife doesn’t read a lot of scifi, but she wanted to know what was going on in the book, and we had many discussions about the ethics and morality of what makes a human a human, and how does one define normal? Each question the book poses, leads to a plethora of answers that quite frankly opens a can of worms. But this for me, is what great SciFi is all about. The question of our own existence and what exactly does that entail? Are the lines that are drawn between science and religion so dissimilar?
There is everything you could want in Gemsigns, from conspiracy, adventure, touches of humour and friendship etc. The pacing is fantastic throughout, and the characters are just brilliant. My favourite character was Gaela who has bright red hair and can see in infra-red.
This is book 1 in a planned trilogy of Stephanie Saulters ®evolution series and I cannot wait for the sequels, there are lots of threads that are leading elsewhere, I just know it. There is so much more I could say about this book and of the questions that are laying within its pages I hope I have done the book the justice it deserves with this (my first) review.
The book is published by my favourite publishers Jo Fletcher Books, who’s authors are superlative and wonderful, Stephanie Saulter is one to keep an eye on, and I for one am looking forward to reading more of her splendiferous work!
I hope that you will now stop reading my ramblings and go and purchase a copy of Gemsigns … Well go on, what are you waiting for, you silly norm!