Wednesday, January 30, 2019

THIS MORTAL COIL, a series by Emily Suvada

I met Emily Suvada at last year's Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Conference (NCIBA) and as soon as I heard the premise for THIS MORTAL COIL, and its follow-up, THIS CRUEL DESIGN, I had to read it:

Catarina Agatta is a hacker. She can cripple mainframes and crash through firewalls, but that’s not what makes her special. In Cat’s world, people are implanted with technology to recode their DNA, allowing them to change their bodies in any way they want. And Cat happens to be a gene-hacking genius.

That’s no surprise, since Cat’s father is Dr. Lachlan Agatta, a legendary geneticist who may be the last hope for defeating a plague that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction. But during the outbreak, Lachlan was kidnapped by a shadowy organization called Cartaxus, leaving Cat to survive the last two years on her own.

When a Cartaxus soldier, Cole, arrives with news that her father has been killed, Cat’s instincts tell her it’s just another Cartaxus lie. But Cole also brings a message: before Lachlan died, he managed to create a vaccine, and Cole needs Cat’s help to release it and save the human race.

Now Cat must decide who she can trust: The soldier with secrets of his own? The father who made her promise to hide from Cartaxus at all costs? In a world where nature itself can be rewritten, how much can she even trust herself?

The nightmare of the outbreak is finally over, but Cat’s fight has only just begun.

Exhausted, wounded, and reeling from revelations that have shaken her to her core, Cat is at a breaking point. Camped in the woods with Cole and Leoben, she’s working day and night, desperate to find a way to stop Lachlan’s plan to reprogram humanity. But she’s failing—Cat can’t even control her newly regrown panel, and try as she might to ignore them, she keeps seeing glitching visions from her past everywhere she turns.

When news arrives that the Hydra virus might not be as dead as they’d thought, the group is pushed into an uneasy alliance with Cartaxus to hunt down Lachlan and fix the vaccine. Their search takes them to Entropia, a city of genehackers hidden deep in the desert that could also hold the answers about Cat’s past that she’s been searching for.

But when confronted with lies and betrayals, Cat is forced to question everything she knows and everyone she trusts. And while Lachlan is always two steps ahead, the biggest threat to Cat may be the secrets buried in her own mind.

According to your website bio, you spent your childhood in Australia. In what ways, if any, did this influence your writing and storytelling? 

There are some amazing Australian science fiction books which influenced me as a child - Galax-Arena by Gillian Rubenstein comes to mind specifically. Australians are strongly into sci-fi in general, especially post-apocalyptic and "punk" scifi worlds. If you think about Mad Max, or Tank Girl, you can see a strong sci-fi aesthetic that's wholeheartedly Australian, and that's an aesthetic you can find in my work, too. I think it helps that most of the country is a landscape which will literally kill you if you're not prepared to go out in it. There are dangers everywhere, but we still love to get outdoors and go hiking in the wilderness as much as any other country. Writing about a world where the air can kill you in a pretty devastating way seemed fairly natural for this Australian author! Also, Aussies don't often get a shot to put their work out on a global stage, which gives us a bit of an underdog, ambitious, hungry culture and I think inspired me to work really, really hard to try to get my work onto global shelves as well as those at home in Australia.

Maybe that's why I love the worldbuilding in THIS MORTAL COIL so much. What inspired the idea of gene-hacking, and how did it develop as you wrote? 

The idea of genehacking came about through reading about the genetic editing work that people are currently doing! There are people in their homes right now, injecting themselves with amateur-created proteins to edit their own DNA. You can buy the equipment to do it on the internet! I looked at the history of genetic science, which has been developing at an incredible rate, and imagined what would happen if we could sequence DNA faster, if we could understand it better, and if we could alter or affect it just as quickly. Computers used to be the size of a room and they could only perform simple tasks - now we hold them in our hands and they can talk to us. I tried to imagine a future where genetic engineering had evolved to the point computers are now, and instantly knew we'd be looking at inbuilt, on-the-fly editing which would have to be based on a serious amount of algorithms and coding to work. And thus, the gentech in my world was born!

Fantastic. In THIS CRUEL DESIGN, Cat faces some new obstacles. In what ways do her new challenges shape her as a person?

Poor Cat. All she faces is obstacles! I think in THIS CRUEL DESIGN, she's not able to do as much developing and growing as she would like, because the world is ending, and it's ending fast. She learns a lot about herself and the people around her, but she just doesn't have time to take it in and has to respond instinctively instead. In This Cruel Design we really see her taking matters into her own hands a little more - her determination grows throughout the book - she's learning that she doesn't want to be a pawn, and she doesn't want to be controlled or lied to - that instead she wants to make her own decisions and lead her own story.

Something the best protagonists do. What are some of your current projects?

I'm currently working hard on the third and final book! I can't wait to share more details about it with you soon! Other than that, I have a lot of ideas I'm excited to pursue, but I'm focusing my efforts on closing out this trilogy before I let myself play in any shiny new worlds :D

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

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