The Diabolic

diabolicby S. J. Kincaid
First sentence: “Everyone believed Diabolics were fearless, but in my earliest years, all I knew was fear.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: November 1, 2016
Review copy provided by the publisher rep.
Content: It’s violent, brutally so in some parts. (No worse than the Hunger Games series.) There’s some romance, but no sex. There’s inferences to rape, but nothing on-screen. I’ll probably put this in our YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

I  was trying to explain this book to someone the other night, and I realized 1) the plot is super complex, and all the parts are important. And 2) I needed to come up with a super-short, catching elevator speech for this one. I think I have it: if you crossed Battlestar Galactica with ancient Rome and thrown in a dash of Game of Thrones,  then tone it down a bit, you have The Diabolic.

Nemesis is a diabolic, a being genetically engineered to be bonded to someone in the upper class to be their personal bodyguard. Nemesis is programmed to love and protect (at all costs) Sidonia, the only daughter and heir of a senator in the empire. The current fashion is to repress education, especially in science and technology, and encourage this outlandish and extravagant religion they call Helionic. But the universe is falling apart, and Sidonia’s father is the leader of a faction that believes they need to encourage education and development of new technology in order to save the universe. The Emperor doesn’t like this, so he calls Sidonia to court in order to hold her hostage. This is where Nemesis comes in: Sidonia’s mother decides that she won’t lose her only child, and instead commits treason by sending Nemesis in her place. Which means Nemesis has to pass.

And that’s just the beginning.

This book is not only fun (though it begins a bit slow, and takes a little to get into), it’s incredibly thought-provoking, dealing with whether or not genetically engineered beings can be “human” and deserving of the same rights as others. There’s the issues of hierarchy and education vs. tradition. It’s fascinating. There are twists and turns (the final one is very, very satisfying), and I thoroughly enjoyed the love story.

I’ll admit that when my Simon rep told me about this one, I was dubious. But, she was right: it’s a fantastic book.

Replica

replicaby Lauren Oliver
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: October 4, 2016
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: There’s some violence, all off screen, and about a dozen f-bombs scattered throughout. It will be in the Teen section (grades 9+) of the bookstore.

Gemma has spent her whole life feeling like a freak: she’s overweight and her parents are over-protective and yet distant, all of which leads others at school to make fun of her. So, when a rock tied around a Frankenstein mask gets thrown through the window of her house, she figures it’s the school bullies picking on her again. But, she overhears her parents arguing late at night and suddenly everything takes on a new meaning: it’s not HER the mask was meant for, but her father.

See, her father was co-owner of this super pharma business, which had some dealings with Haven, a super-secret island off the coast of Florida. No one knows what they do there, but her father had enough complaints that he got out. But that got Gemma curious: what is Haven, and why all the secrecy?

All that leads Gemma to sneaking off to Florida for spring break, to get answers to figure out what is going on with her parents and why this whole Haven thing is so secretive (and somehow, important).  What she finds out will change her life forever.

In some ways, this is a fascinating novel, playing with the ideas of humanity and just how far science will go to justify the ends it wants. I’m not entirely sure it justified the two-part story, however. I read Gemma’s version first, on a whim, and by the time I got to Lyra’s I wasn’t sure how much I cared. And yet, in retrospect, it’s possibly Lyra’s story that’s more important. Imagining that replicas have thoughts and feelings, that they are individuals, is fascinating thing to think about. And yet, I felt like something was lacking. Perhaps the ending was too abrupt? Maybe I hoped for more understanding or perhaps retribution. It all felt so… tidy.

Even so, I was thoroughly engrossed by the book. I wanted to know Gemma’s (and Lyra’s, as well) story, and the horrors of what the characters were going through was enough to keep me turning pages.