Gemsigns Author: Stephanie Saulter Series: ®EVOLUTION 1 Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books, May 6, 2014 Format: Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages List Price: $26.99 (print) ISBN: 9781623651602 (print) (US Debut) Review Copy: Provided by the Publisher
Starburst magazine raved that Gemsigns, the first novel in a series, is “a fascinating and compelling read, exploring the boundaries of human behavior, religious influences, and the morality of the everyday person. It comes highly recommended.” For years the human race was under attack from a deadly Syndrome, but when a cure was found – in the form of genetically engineered human beings, Gems—the line between survival and ethics was radically altered. Now the Gems are fighting for their freedom, from the oppression of the companies that created them, and against the Norms who see them as slaves. And a conference at which Dr Eli Walker has been commissioned to present his findings on the Gems is the key to that freedom. But with the Gemtech companies fighting to keep the Gems enslaved, and the horrifying godgangs determined to rid the earth of these ‘unholy’ creations, the Gems are up against forces that may just be too powerful to oppose.
The story starts with a community of genetically enhanced humans - aka Gems - who are trying to find their place in a 'norm' world. Humanity had been on the brink of extinction and in order to survive they developed a genetically distinct race who would effectively do all the jobs that they couldn't/wouldn't be able to do - mining, farming, manufacturing, surrogacy etc. The gems are controlled by large corporations who have everything to gain and nothing to lose by ruling this genetically modified offshoot of humanity. The story largely focuses on Eli Walker who is an anthropologist researching whether gems are really human. He is caught between the gorgeous, powerful Zavcka Klist, an executive working for one of the companies involved the creation of the gems, and equally beautiful but badly deformed gem, Ayral Morningstar. Tensions rise to a fever pitch as the ethical debate plays out. Its only a matter of time before the debate leads to violence and everything Eli thought he knew gets called into question.
Gemsigns could have been have been just another story of one race persecuting another but Saulter layers a number of themes to tell her story including fascism, slavery and religious fanaticism. The theme of whether genetically enhanced humans should be subjugated for their powers/abilities is not new. X-Men came to mind as I read this book. Saulter avoided mediocrity and adds a few twists to make the story unique and engaging. She blended some relatively uncomfortable themes with great characters and excellent writing. There are parts of the book that are so eloquently written, those discussing the 'humanity' of the gems, that I felt like I was reading a thesis....an interesting thesis I might add. I found the first couple of pages a bit odd but as soon as it launched into the main story I was gripped and stayed that way until the end.
This is Saulter's debut novel and if it is an indication of her abilities then she is destined to have a great career as an author. This book is a winner in my humble opinion. I am also very lucky that I don't have to wait for book 2, Binary as it has already been released in the UK. Sorry to rub it in! Gemsignsis a great book and sets the stage for a great series.