Note: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
The concept of projecting one’s consciousness into an artificial body is not a new one in science fiction (and apparently closer in the real world than you might think), but Emma Geen has chosen to focus it on animals, which I can’t say I’ve seen done before. It’s an intriguing way to look at the technology, that one could live as an animal to get insights into endangered species to better preserve them for the future. In the grand tradition of dystopia, it’s also something that could be used for some fairly nefarious purposes in the wrong hands.
Summary (From Goodreads)
When we first meet Kit, she is a fox.
Nineteen-year-old Kit works for the research department of Shen Corporation as a phenomenaut. She’s been “jumping”–projecting her consciousness, through a neurological interface–into the bodies of lab-grown animals made for the purpose of research for seven years, which is longer than anyone else at ShenCorp, and longer than any of the scientists thought possible. She experiences a multitude of other lives–fighting and fleeing as predator and prey, as mammal, bird, and reptile–in the hope that her work will help humans better understand the other species living alongside them.
Her closest friend is Buckley, her Neuro–the computer engineer who guides a phenomenaut through consciousness projection. His is the voice, therefore, that’s always in Kit’s head and is the thread of continuity that connects her to the human world when she’s an animal. But when ShenCorp’s mission takes a more commercial–and ominous–turn, Kit is no longer sure of her safety. Propelling the reader into the bodies of the other creatures that share our world, The Many Selves of Katherine North takes place in the near future but shows us a dazzling world far, far from the realm of our experience.
Despite her disclaimer stating she isn’t a zoologist, Emma Geen has done an amazing job describing being another creature. The way she describes Kit’s feelings on jumping into a polar bear was just wonderful to read. Usually with a first person narration, you get to know the narrator well, and the other characters less so. This novel really flips that on its head and you don’t get know Kit half as well as you’d like, while getting a huge insight into the supporting cast. Normally this would make a character difficult to care about but in this case it worked in the novel’s favor to highlight just how difficult her line of work is and what toll it had taken on her emotional development.
The ending Geen has written is one of the best I’ve ever read. It manages to leave a few questions (possible sequel I hope) as well as wrap up enough of the plot that the dangling threads aren’t frustrating. Usually in your dystopian/sci-fi type stories, you can usually see the ending coming a while away, but this one zagged just when I expected it to zig. I love when a book suprises me like that.
The Not So Good
I found the lack of clear headings made the jumps between flashback and current day quite disorientating. It pulled me out of the narrative each time because I had to figure out when the part of the story was happening. There was also a fair amount of jargon relating to the particulars of the plot that could definitely have used some sort of glossary.
My Rating: (4 / 5)
The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen is available digitally on the 2nd June.