This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada—a review

The last two years have taught us what we could not forget: that animals taste a lot like people.

And that’s how you hook a reader on the second page.

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A twisty love story about identity and what makes us human, an explosive techno-thriller about playing God with genetic code, a dystopian survival story—This Mortal Coil is all of these things, and not once did I feel like shuffling off from its four hundred plus pages. (Kudos to Suvada for acknowledging the Monty Python connection in the title with a seemingly tossed off line late in the novel.)

Much like Elliot in Mr. Robot, Catarina Agatta is a young hacker with extraordinary talents and major father issues. The evil corporation here is Cartaxus, and when we meet Catarina, she is struggling to survive in the wilderness: survive her hunger, survive her isolation, survive the Wrath caused by the Hydra Virus that has led most survivors to flee to the supposed safety of the Cartaxus bunkers. But these bunkers are not for Catarina—her brilliant geneticist father, Dr. Lachlan Agatta, ordered her to stay in the wild when he and his assistant (and Catarina’s romantic interest) Dax were forcibly taken by Cartaxus operatives.

Two years later, and Catarina’s fragile existence in the resistance is threatened by the arrival at her cabin of Cartaxus soldier Cole. However, Cole, like nearly every character in Suvada’s engaging novel, is more complicated than he seems at first glance. He and Catarina join forces in a race to build a vaccine before the virus mutates further. This race for a cure leads Catarina to learn more about her own identity and the role her father has played in shaping this world.

Breathless in the best ways, This Mortal Coil pauses to provide nuanced discussion of the ethics of altering our fundamental genetic identities—and does so without every seeming preachy or pedantic. My students and I eagerly await book two, This Cruel Design, which is to be released this fall.

 

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