This Mortal Coil

Emily Suvada

This Mortal Coil
Penguin Random House Children's UK
United Kingdom
30 October 2017

This Mortal Coil

Emily Suvada

When a lone soldier, Cole, arrives with news of Lachlan Agatta’s death, all hope seems lost for Catarina. Her father was the world’s leading geneticist, and humanity’s best hope of beating a devastating virus. Then, hidden beneath Cole’s genehacked enhancements she finds a message of hope: Lachlan created a vaccine.

Only she can find and decrypt it, if she can unravel the clues he left for her. The closer she gets, the more she finds herself at risk from Cartaxus, a shadowy organization with a stranglehold on the world’s genetic tech. But it’s too late to turn back.

There are three billion lives at stake, two people who can save them, and one final secret that Cat must unlock. A secret that will change everything.


You may at first think, on picking this book up, that you’ve already read a lot like this. From the post-apocalyptic wasteland blighted by plague to the preternaturally capable young hacker prodigy Catarina (child of a genius scientist, no less), many of the usual YA dystopian tropes are present. There’s the malevolent evil corporation (Cartaxus) and an underground hacker organisation that may or may not have good intentions (The Skies). There’s gene-tech implanted in every human, and someone of the opposite gender who simply turns up one day and you just shouldn’t trust them, yet have no choice. That someone also happens to be kind of cute…

Wonderfully, however, Suvada is a gifted storyteller and in her hands these teen-lit standards are transformed into a book of great beauty. Right from the opening scenes of Catarina literally outrunning the plague (the disease is transmitted by late-stage victims exploding and releasing toxic clouds into the atmosphere), the writer weaves an entertaining and suspense-filled narrative – with spectacular plot twists you may not see coming.

The author’s background is maths and science, and she’s used this knowledge to build a world (controlled by genetic science, mass outbreaks and futuristic tech) that’s highly imaginative, yet eerily plausible. Coding geeks will delight in the beautifully described virtual reality hacking scenes that will look wonderful on screen if (when?) this and its planned sequels make it to the movie house, and adrenaline junkies won’t be left disappointed by the high-stakes action. There’s political intrigue, a strong dose of conspiracy and a touch of romance (not too much) – basically, something for almost everyone. Even if you think you never want to read another dystopian thriller again, I urge you to give this a chanc

Kate O’Mara works as a bookseller at Readings Hawthorn.

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