Synopsis (from Amazon)
In the Britain of a few tomorrows time, physical perfection is commonplace and self improvement has become an extinct expression: all the qualities men and women could aspire to can be purchased prior to birth.
GENUS is a time of genetic selection and enrichment – life chances come on a sliding scale according to wealth. For some there is no money or choice, and an underclass has evolved; London’s King’s Cross, or The Kross as it is now known, has become a ghetto for the Unimproved. In The Kross, the natural, the dated, the cheap and the dull, live a brittle and unenviable existence. But unrest is growing; tension is mounting and a murderer is abroad in these dark quarters…
I’ve heard a lot of good things about Boy A (which was Trigell’s first novel) so when Genus was sent to for review I thought why not? I’ve not actually read Boy A so I don’t know if it’s worth of the praise it has received but knowing about it probably did heighten my expectations a little when it came to reading Genus.
At first I really can’t say I was much of a fan. The chapters kept jumping from character to character- sometimes with a heading to say which character’s point of view you were seeing, but not always, which made things a little confusing. Plus at first there seemed to be few links between the characters which felt like I was reading lots of little stories based in the same world, this just added to the confusion. However as the story progressed the stories seemed to intertwine which reduced the confusion- in fact by the time all was revealed the only confusion I felt was the confusion I imagine the reader was meant to feel. That is the confusion about the murderer.
Tone wise Genus reminded me quite a lot of Super Sad True Love Story, which wasn’t really a bonus because I had been rather disappointed by that one, so it didn’t really build good associations. There were certain parallels in the novels too. Both set in a dystopian future which have a certain basis in reality that suggests that everything might come true.
Genus definitely has more meat to it though. The future presented is more scary. The idea of being a lower class just because you hadn’t been a designed child. The vicious circle of it all, the Unimproved couldn’t get the good jobs, so they couldn’t pay for their children to be Improved so if they had children they were condemning them to the same fate. The laws that were meant to protect the Unimproved just made it easier to know who was Unimproved and therefore discriminate against them.
We see this future through different eyes. Some Improved, some not. There’s a suggestion that even life for the Improved is not fantastic, but that nobody would want to be Unimproved, if if they were lucky when it came to natural gene selection. Mainly we follow Holman, an Unimproved of the most obvious type. A midget with legs which do not work as they should, and who is old for his age. In ways he is lucky, he has a natural talent for art which may one day get him out of The Kross, born to an Unimproved, but rich and beautiful mother who is happy to support him. But Holman seems entangled in the murders, is he next to go, or could he even be the murderer?
By the end I just wanted to find everything out, but to be honest most of the time I found I just wanted the story to be over already, it was only in about the last 30% of the book that I started actually getting interested, and the last 10% was pretty riveting. If you’re in for the long haul you may enjoy Genus, but I didn’t find the last section really made up for the rest.
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