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Book Review: Original Syn

Original Syn. Beth Kander. Owl House Books, September 25, 2018, Trade paperback and E-Book, 463 pages. 

Reviewed by Ukaisha A. Hall.

The year is 2065, decades after The Singularity, and humankind has dwindled down to tribes while enhanced humans—synthetic citizens—who are synched with technology, rule. They are not only responsible for maintaining and sustaining Syns, but also making laws that govern the people. The leader of the Syn movement is Dr. Felix Hess. Even though he is the eleventh member of the Syn Council, his word prevails because he is the first fully successfully synched human and lead scientist in cyber organics. Dr. Hess is both savior and villain. His logic, demands, and actions spur the story forward. Marilyn, his wife and mother of Ever, follows his every order, even when it means hurting others. Her compliance is matched by Dr. Hess’s two assistants: Jorge, a Vost and second-class citizen, and Kennedy, a more-privileged Syn. While others respect and fear Hess, his daughter, Ever, despises her father’s control. 

As the Syns build great cities and hoard resources, Originals—humans that couldn’t afford to synch or refused to synch—are pushed to the outskirts of Syn society. Tribes of Originals migrate to safe places until the land is commandeered by Syns and they are forced to move on. Ruth Fell is a leader in her tribe and highly respected. Though she can be harsh, she is a protector, so it is her job to keep the tribe safe. Ere Fell loves his mother, but just wants to meet a girl his age that will like him instead of his tall, muscled, and responsible cousin, Cal. 

This science fiction story centers round the lives of Ever Hess, a Syn perpetually stuck at 17 and Ere Fell, a 17-year-old original boy. Ever Hess is bored and longs for authentic experience in her perfect, metallic world. In a fit of exasperation, she runs away. She learns riveting truths about how Originals live, and she also discovers startling and dangerous truths about her father. Ere is also blindsided by the truths his mother withheld from him. Both have to navigate dual worlds while trying to figure out their own hearts and where their allegiances fall.

In Original Syn,Kander introduces a host of characters, each with their own chapters, creating perspective and urgency as some characters discover secrets while others are left in the dark. The story is told from a third-person, present-tense point of view. This approach, in itself, is a very unexpected aspect of the story and at times can actually take the reader out of the moment instead of bringing the reader closer to the action. This feeling of losing connection with the characters could also be the result of a very lengthy back story that seems to culminate in ways that do not always add to the character development. On the other hand, as a first book of a series, the reader is taught how to understand the world of Ever and Ere. Hopefully, with the back-stories out of the way, the second book will leave room for more plot advancement and better character development. 

It will be interesting to see how the war between the Syns and the Originals plays out and what role Ever and Ere will play. Readers will also be interested in supporting characters, who may be putting even more at risk than the main characters as they step up through the ranks.

All in all, Kander tells a story woven with secrets, love, danger, as well as ethical and philosophical questions as old as time. What makes us human? Why are we here? Is there a God? Does love conquer all?


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