I think I’ve been waiting for Queen’s Shadow and The Afterward most of my life but didn’t how badly I needed them until last week.
Ever since E.K. Johnston’s forthcoming books were announced, I’ve been beyond excited for both novels. After all, I was already predisposed to love them given their strong emotional ties to my childhood. From the moment I watched The Phantom Menace, I’ve been enamored with Padmé Amidala and her handmaidens. To a nine year old, a band of teenage girls kicking ass and fighting for their homeworld and wearing gorgeous outfits while doing it looked like the dream. I wanted to be one of them. Queen’s Shadow finally gives Naboo’s loyal daughters the spotlight and it only took twenty years. I’m equally in love with high fantasy and stories about lady knights and read as many as I could get my hands on growing up. David Eddings, who specialized in high fantasy and the delightful use of tropes, has been one of my favorite authors since I started reading his books and, well, let’s just say there’s a very good reason we’re rereading his Elenium trilogy ahead of The Afterward’s release. Continue reading
In all honesty: I had no idea what to expect when I first opened Stronger, Faster and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton. The cover features a woman’s face with robot hands which instantly intrigued me and made me think “robots are involved, great!” But then the copy on the inside cover flap felt more like a concept than an explanation so I decided to just go ahead and turn to the first page and start reading. Four pages later, I was hooked and almost didn’t put the book down so I could make it to work on time.
Stronger, Faster and More Beautiful is six connected stories exploring what it means to be human in a world where technological and medical advances keep moving forward and let us repair, enhance, and change our fleshy forms. They start out simple enough in our not so distant future. A young boy receives organs from his sister. A teenage girl is part mechanical after being reconstructed after a car accident. The daughter of a reverend with a change of heart has to try and figure out her own life. And then it starts to get a little stranger as we move much further into the future. A genetically modified boy isn’t quite human. A man who was unwillingly modified to be a part-robotic slave runs for his life in Russia. And finally… two teenagers who are what used to be human in a world that uplifts the genetically modified try to figure out what to do when their entire world changes. Each story builds upon the world established in the one prior and moves us further into the future. They could all be read alone but together they form something special.
Admittedly, I didn’t love every story as much as some of the others but every one of them made me think and wonder if this is really the path that humanity in the United States might take. That’s part of what makes this book disturbing at times. While the final story feels a little outlandish with the state of the world, the five prior make its scenario totally plausible. In all honesty, I’m not sure how I feel about how things wrap up but I can understand and respect how Dayton got there which is ultimately more important. My favorite of the stories is probably the second one where Milla struggles with what her body has become in a world where this isn’t considered normal yet. Give me all the partially robot girls and their internal struggles with trying to still feel human.
Ultimately, Stronger, Faster and More Beautiful is one of those books that’s hard to discuss without spoilers because each part is an experience. If you’re interested in a look at the potential path of humanity from an intimate and personal level, this is the book for you. If you’re even mildly intrigued by this book, pick it up. I highly doubt you’ll regret it.
Wunderkind PR/Delacorte Press provided a copy of the book for review purposes.