Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Book Review: Binary by Stephanie Saulter

Pros: interesting mystery, character development, minor romantic elements

Cons: only learn snippets of what’s happened since book 1 

Several years have passed since Eli Walker presented his recommendations with regards to the integration of gems (genetically modified humans) with the general human population.  Gems are finding recognition despite lingering hesitation from the norms around them.  They’ve had time to think about their futures, including marriage and children - something many gems know won’t be possible without help due to their modifications.  Bel’Natur is headed in new directions and wants Herran, a severely autistic gem,’s help with their project.  The police are sent an anonymous tip that some of the locked up genestock isn’t as secured as everyone thought.  And Aryel Morningstar’s foster father and siblings, Rhys and Gwen, are visiting London.  Rhys, has a dangerous medical condition that knowing his genetype could help cure, but he and his twin were rescued from an experimental black lab, and all his gem enhanced efforts to uncover information about it have been unsuccessful.

The novel starts off slowly, reintroducing you to familiar characters and gradually adding in the new players for this book.  Some characters (most notably Gabriel’s family) are absent.  It’s not clear at first how much time has passed since the events of book 1, though you eventually figure out it’s been 3 or 4 years.  You don’t learn much of what’s happened in the meantime, mostly snippets, but you’re left knowing that while some things have improved, others are taking longer.

The main plot threads start a few chapters into the book, giving you time to get grounded in the characters again before the police mystery begins, Rhys goes for testing and Herran starts his new job.  The various plot lines converge at the ending, creating quite a few explosive reveals.  You get to learn about Aryel’s origins as well as some interesting things about Zavcka’s past.

As weird as it sounds, considering her abrasive personality and the things she’s done, I found myself feeling sorry for Zavcka in this book.  

While Gwen indulges her first love, music, by way of meeting a popular gem musician, Rhys starts up an affair with one of Aryel’s friends.  It’s a sweet affair, made serious at times due to Rhys’ condition and his fears for the future.

While I would have liked to know more about what happened to some of the characters from the first book and what happened in the interim, this was a great book that once again delved into human psychology to show how various people react to new and challenging circumstances.  There’s the heartbreak of the couple who can’t conceive, the norm who married a gem and faces ridicule from co-workers, adulation from music fans, revulsion from those who want a return to the way things were, and more.  The various reactions all feel honest based on where different people come from and their circumstances.  As with the first book, the POV is squarely with the gems and their sympathizers.  It’s a fantastic follow-up to Gemsigns and I can’t wait to read the last book in the series.

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