My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is the third book in the Mortal Coil trilogy. I've rated the previous two books highly, but this one felt like a bit of a letdown. Primarily because it seemed to me that the inconsistencies and implausibilities in the worldbuilding, which to be fair were present in the previous two books but weren't emphasized as much, really started to show in this one. Also, these books have always been fast-paced and full of twists and turns, but here the pace seems to be not so much fast for its own sake but a means of covering up the strains at the seams.
Just as an example, this is a world of nanotechnology and genetic engineering beyond anything currently available: CRISPR on steroids, in other words. Anybody can buy an off-the-shelf genehacking kit and do all sorts of things with it, and most of the characters in all three novels are expert genhackers. People also have "panels" that are basically implanted smartphones, that both connect to the internet and control the millions of nanites in each individual's body through apps. One of the characters, Mato, is described at a moment of crisis like this:
I remember Mato telling Catarina that he'd used the implant to take over some of his brain's functions--movement, breathing, digestion. When he walks, it isn't his brain that sends those commands to his muscles--it's the implant. He used it to free up more space in his brain for coding and thinking, but that means that when his tech shuts off, he's almost helpless. It's dangerous enough to switch off anyone's tech suddenly--it can cause a shock to their body, or even lead to their cells trying to reject the gentech that's inside them. When you're relying on code to breathe, it's even more dangerous.
When I read that, I thought, huh? I'm sorry, but the brain, as an organ, is not comparable to a computer's hard drive. You can't "run out" of freaking RAM space in your brain! Also, the brain is way too complex and interconnected for an artificial implant to take over its basic functions.
Also, in a chapter describing this meeting between our two viewpoint characters, Jun Bei and Catarina, Catarina's existence is described thusly:
"In a complicated way, you're really my sister. But that's not all. If the Viper marked your file as vector, then that makes sense--you have a gift, just like the rest of us. Your DNA spreads through cells. That's why the patches on my body are as big as they are now. And that must be why, after a few months in the desert, I tried to wipe half my brain and almost killed myself. I haven't been able to figure out what would frighten me enough to make me do that."
I sway, heat racing across my skin. "What do you mean?"
Her gaze locks on mine. "I think your DNA spread through my brain just like it spread through my body. And I think that after a while you woke up."
And I'm thinking, uncontrolled replicating DNA/cells, spreading through a person's body and brain? Does that sound like a character, or does that sound like cancer? (Anybody remember the old X-Files episode, "Leonard Betts"? About the guy who was simultaneously cancer-riddled and had to consume cancer to survive, and who could regenerate his entire head from the cancer cells in his body? That's what this reminded me of. Somehow I don't think the author intended such a comparison. But having said all this, the solution to these two characters sharing the same body and occupying each half of the body's brain made more sense than the usual nonsense of digitizing one of the consciousnesses and uploading it--Catarina's half of the brain was transplanted into an unawake and unaware clone body.)
Look, I can handle one, or even two, instances of breaking my suspension of disbelief. The first two books were more consistent in the worldbuilding and not so in-your-face with the breaks, and that, together with the strong pacing, made me able to overlook the things that didn't make sense. That delicate balance was simply not achieved in this book. Which is not to say I hated it--I pre-ordered the hardback, and I will keep it. But the final book was disappointing, and definitely not as good as the first two.
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