*I received a free ARC of this novel. The decision to review, and my views, are my own.*
Blurb: What if the sky was deadly?
Seventeen-year-old Fin has never stepped foot on the surface of the Earth. Working the mines deep below has been the only life she has ever known, an underground existence of sweat and monotony in service to the Enhanced Human Coalition—the genetically-modified who control the underground from the world above. Every Dweller underground understands that you serve the EHC up top, or you don’t eat.
Two hundred years after the planet’s magnetic poles began to flip, Earth’s surface has become irradiated and unsustainable. As the land, water, and even the air grew toxic, the underprivileged were doomed to a life of hard labor underground, while the Enhanced Human Coalition on the surface enjoy their spoils.
But now, Fin and her friends discover a stolen piece of EHC tech that modifies genetics, giving them the abilities of those up top—varied levels of increased strength, intelligence, and adaptation to the surface’s harsh conditions. The theft of this technology triggers a manhunt, forcing them to flee to the most dangerous place they could possibly go… aboveground.
Can she save a world broken in two?
This YA sci-fi adventure is very much in the style and mode of books like The Hunger Games. The setting is a dystopia divided into the privileged and the deprived, based on birth, money and the ability to survive on the Earth’s surface conferred via genetic modification for those who can afford it.
The story follows a group of young, subterannean ‘Dweller’ friends as they accidentally level the playing field and begin a cat-and-mouse adventure in which every mouse that helps to save them becomes bait in the next cat-trap! (Metaphorically speaking. There are no actual cats and mice. No animals were harmed during the… you know).
The politics of the plot are quite clear-cut, with the elite mostly being sadists who think of their fellow humans as things, other than the few noble privileged who have rejected their birthright to form an equal-rights resistance. This is particularly selfless as there is no benefit for them at all and considerable risk, but they do it on principle. Truly heroic.
The modification process appears to affect different Dwellers in different ways, some of which are outlined, and others hinted at, but I feel there is more to explore here as the series develops; particularly the unusual effect on Lacy, the main character Fin’s best friend.
There is some light romance but it is kept on the backburner as the action-adventure aspects take the lead and drive the characters firmly through the initial plotline, and the ending sets things up nicely for a change of pace/tone in book 2: Viva la revolution!
Overall a quick-moving, neatly-written young adult read for Hunger Games fans looking for their next dystopian fix.
“While I was in that crate in the shipping zone, I came across this.” I reach into my cargo pants and pull out the device. “I must have hit a button or something because it… it changed me.”
Changed you how?” Lacy asks.
“I feel different. Stronger. Maybe quicker too.”
“It sounds like you’ve been modified,” Sky says.
– Harper North, Modified
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