DISCLAIMER – I was sent a free copy of this book in return for a fair and unbiased review
(I decided not to discuss characters etc as I did so in my review of book 1, the review for that can be found here)
‘Elise stood on the pebble strewn shoreline and peered into the lake. The surface was still and reflected a mirror image of the snow-capped mountains behind it.’
Elise and her companions have made it to the safety of Uracil but at a price. Desperate to secure her family’s passage, she makes a deal with Uracil’s Tri-Council. She’ll become their spy, jeopardising her own freedom in the process, in exchange for her family’s safe transfer. But first she has to help rescue the next Neanderthal, Twenty-Two.
Twenty-Two has never left the confines of the steel walls that keep her separated from the other exhibits. She has no contact with the outside world and no way of knowing why she has been abandoned. With diminishing deliveries of food and water, she has to start breaking the museum’s rules if she wants a second chance at living.
One belongs to the future and the other to the past, but both have to adapt—or neither will survive…
What I thought
I returned to this world only a day after finishing book 1 in this series so the previous story was still fresh, which helped in my reading but this dystopia is so unique I don’t think I would have needed much reminding.
At the base of this story is the idea of fixing mistakes but the blame and the cost is put on the wrong people (seems familiar???). By trying to make humans better to survive the destroyed world that climate change etc has left homo sapiens – hint it’s not much of a world left – using genetic modification all humans have done is what we’ve done throughout history made the rich richer/better and asked the poor to pay for it. The systems of sapiens/medius/proptiors is just a new way of distinguishing from low/middle/upper class. Except now there are literal genetic differences as well as money and you have a tattoo saying where you come from if your looks or name doesn’t give it away. (Sapiens can only have 2 syllable names, medius – 3, and proptiors – 4. Animals and neanderthals get 1 if they get a name at all). Because nothing says a society that has learnt from the mistakes of the past like branding people to make sure their differences are clear for everyone to see! Also any form of relationship past acquaintance is illegal, you mix with your class and your class only.
This book did a really good job of expanding the world that we were introduced to last time, we learned that there are some compulsory modifications for proptiors. In no way am I saying that we should be sympathetic to the elite class but it’s interesting that even they have rules in place to try and make them as different as possible. They have to look flawless, be taller, have longer life, etc because it makes the lower classes look up to them more as gods. I’m sure there are good proptiors but when generations have told you that you were born better and your looks, etc are proof of that it’s hard to break out of. We know it’s possible from history but it’s insanely hard and takes multiple sacrifices from the lower classes to show themselves as the same, and the risks they take are so much bigger.
For me this story is about breaking the obvious rules but not the bigger culture ones that are ingrained in us from such a young age. Which is shown in Twenty-Two. From the minute we meet this young neanderthal she is thinking about leaving the museum and is breaking the rules to talk to her Companion (with dementia) to find out more about her species. But she’s not doing any of this because she wants to be free, she’s asking because she’s curious and she wants to leave to move to another museum as she’s being forgotten about now the proptior has moved to ‘be with’ Seventeen. As a reader we know he’s only going because he wants the acclaim that comes with being in charge with a ‘natural born’ neanderthal and not because he cares about them. It’s about having the cap in his feather, nothing more. But Twenty-Two doesn’t know any of this, she just knows that when she was there people cared about her and they don’t any more.
With Elise, Luca, and Kit all having to learn how to live in the rebel camp and how the world outside of the society they grew up in works, this book really looks at what it means to break the rules and what rules are so ingrained that the idea of questioning them, let along breaking them is unthinkable.
And there is always a downside to living in rebel camp, it comes with a cost that often appears higher than staying in the world that you know. Because at least there you know the rules and while you’re suffering in one place it’s easier to forget the problems/threat of another.
For Elise the cost isn’t in moving to the rebel base, apart from having to work it doesn’t appear like it would be too bad. The cost is in arguing for her family to join her, the deal she makes is that she works for them as a spy full time with only a few weeks, up to maybe a month or two, between each mission. It’s a high price and one that Elise doesn’t understand when she offers it on her first night there.
Why I read it
I was offered a free copy for review and after I’d already said yes to the first one, this one seemed like a no brainer.
I said yes to this series because of the idea of bringing neanderthals and extinct species back to life to make them museum attractions.
I really enjoyed the growth of the characters and the world. Once again the neanderthals feel real (something I would imagine is very difficult) and the stakes her been upped.
I’m looking forward to reading more in this world and seeing how it continues to grow, there are other areas of the world still to explore – both physically and metaphorically.
Did I enjoy it? Yes, I might not have been itching to pick it up every second but once I had picked it up I was loathe to put it back down.
Am I glad I read it? Yes
Would I read again? Yes
Would I recommend? Yes, dystopia with a difference but still a biting look at classism and racism