A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada is a dystopian sci-fi offering that would have done well in the post-Hunger Games boom back in 2008, but since This Mortal Coil—TMC for short—came out in 2017, I was hesitant to pick it up. Dystopian isn’t really my thing anymore and I’m always a bit wary of sci-fi in general because it isn’t my preferred genre. Once I got past the first fifty pages of the book, however, I realized I didn’t want to stop reading. This Mortal Coil caught me by surprise. When I picked it up a couple of weeks ago, I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did. TMC is a thrill ride and a half, its non-stop action and numerous plot-twists guaranteeing an edge-of-your-seat experience.
TMC follows our main character, seventeen-year-old Catarina Agatta, as she struggles to survive in the aftermath of a plague that has devastated the earth’s population. That plague is called Hydra, and it is brutal. Fortunately, Catarina—or Cat, as she’s mainly referred to—is the daughter of Lachlan Agatta, a world-renowned scientist who is working on a cure for the Hydra virus. While he’s working for the evil pharmaceutical company called Cartaxas, however, Cat is left to fend for herself in a world that no longer plays by the rules of a civilized society.
TMC is a dystopian novel, but it is rooted in hard sci-fi. All the characters in this book are equipped with technology called panels, which are inserted in them at birth and allow them to download “codes” into their bodies. There are codes for everything. Curing diseases, changing your hair color, your skin color, etc. As the book continues on, we find out that there’s very little these codes can’t do. Cat just so happens to be an expert at coding and at hacking these panels, but a rare disorder called hypergenesis keeps her from altering herself like everyone else. When a super-soldier from Cartaxas shows up at Cat’s doorstep, seemingly to drag her to their evil lair kicking and screaming, Cat realizes that the world as she knows it isn’t her world at all, but a world spun from a web of lies that threaten to destroy her and everything she cares about.
Now that our requisite synopsis is out of the way, let me sum my feelings up about this book thusly: It was bonkers. Completely wild, totally nuts. TMC grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. From the minute Cole, the super soldier from Cartaxus, shows up at Cat’s door, pages and plot points speed by at a rate that’s almost hard to grasp. I found myself getting confused by the timeline of the book a lot, since everything happens so quickly. I couldn’t tell you how many days this book takes place over or if the things that happen fifty pages ago are still in the same day as the next fifty pages. I didn’t find myself very connected to Cat or Cole, either, but I’m willing to forgive the disconnect purely because this book was so much fun. The Hydra virus is very well thought out, and the symptoms that come with it are disgusting. People who get infected with the virus explode. They literally explode. And to become immune to the virus, people have to eat the flesh of the infected. Yes, cannibalism is a thing in here. It isn’t for the faint of heart.
Despite the pacing issues and the disconnect I felt to the characters, I really enjoyed my time with This Mortal Coil. It keeps you guessing until the very end, and even after you’re done, you ask yourself: What the heck just happened? Luckily, we have the sequel, This Cruel Design, as well as This Mortal Coil at the Oreana library. You should definitely check them out if cannibalism and deadly viruses are your thing.