You know when someone has lots of cool ideas of future tech and projections about what life could be like in the future, so they think they’ll write book about it? I have loads of those ideas but I also know my limitations and couldn’t come up with a plot to hold that all together. That is exactly how I felt about This Mortal Coil.
Bear with me, this will take a while to lay out. In the future, a terrible virus has spread across the world. The victims explode, the resulting clouds of red mist carrying the pathogen. However, you can temporarily vaccinate yourself by eating some flesh of the infected. I’m always all over a book about super viruses, so I was expecting to like this a lot more on that basis…
Humans have come to rely on technology for everything, implanted with gentech, seemingly a mix of nanobots and something with DNA that’s not really changing it but “wrapping it” and this keeps them healthy. Their panel can also be used to change their appearance, provide VR services and make tasteless food taste good. People can run apps in their own bodies. Traditional medicine has now been forgotten about, of course. I can get down with gene therapy but the explanations of what the gentech was doing was a bit contradictory.
There’s nothing so dangerous as an Agatta’s best intentions.
Enter special snowflake Catarina Agatta. She is somehow allergic to gentech, but she can have some basic stuff. With all the technology they have, they can’t cure an allergy? Hrm, well you’ll find out more on that later (did someone say Everything, Everything?). Her father is a genius scientist who is taken away by Cartaxus to work on a vaccine for the Hydra virus.
Cartaxus is essentially a huge pharmaceutical company, just relying on code rather than drugs which does raise questions around the ethics of patenting medicines and also propriety software. During a year of living by herself, Catarina joins a group of rebel hackers and passes her days nibbling on infected human flesh. Turns out she’s a skilled coder and has been helping to deliver medical hacks to those left behind by evil big pharma. Then one day a mysterious soldier turns up with a message from her father.
There’s a special place in hell for whoever came up with DRM for food.
There is just so much going on, it felt like there was a plot twist every few chapters, and there’s far too many explanations of tech, with some repetition, just to drive the point home. There is no leaving things for the reader to work out for themselves. I had thought it was a standalone, but it’s not. There was enough material to spread over a few books in this one, so I’m not sure where it will go and I don’t think I’ll be finding out.
It was quite light on the romance, although there’s still some weird love stuff going on (I can’t tell you why it’s weird without spoilers). It appears to be a bit of a Marmite book looking at Goodreads, so if you don’t mind super twisty stories with a lot of information on the tech, then it might still be for you.
I’ve known him less than two days, but there’s already a bond between us, forged in blood and urgency. Part of me feels like we know each other now on some fundamental level.
It did make me laugh grimly a few times on the old software development lifecycle stuff, probably the one thing that can be inferred. I mean you really don’t want to release untested code into the world… But people still do.
This Mortal Coil is published by Penguin and is available now in paperback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.
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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.
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