Hi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.
As part of the Coffeehouse I’m obligated to share the best book I read this month. A few of my Coffeehouse friends are familiar with Susan Kaye Quinn, but this is a NEW, so I am eager to share a YA dystopian-future gem. Oh, and scroll down to enter the KINDLE GIVEAWAY!!
About the book:
When transcending humanity is the prize, winning the Game is all that matters.
Seventeen-year-old Elijah Brighton wants to become an ascender—a post-Singularity human/machine hybrid—after all, they’re smarter, more enlightened, more compassionate, and above all, achingly beautiful. But Eli is a legacy human, preserved and cherished for his unaltered genetic code, just like the rainforest he paints. When a fugue state possesses him and creates great art, Eli miraculously lands a sponsor for the creative Olympics. If he could just master the fugue, he could take the gold and win the right to ascend, bringing everything he’s yearned for within reach… including his beautiful ascender patron. But once Eli arrives at the Games, he finds the ascenders are playing games of their own. Everything he knows about the ascenders and the legacies they keep starts to unravel… until he’s running for his life and wondering who he truly is.
The Legacy Human is the first in a new young adult science fiction series that explores the intersection of mind, body, and soul… and how technology will challenge us to remember what it means to be human.
This is a sci-fi YA story set in a richly described dystopian future. More than one hundred years ago, Earth had a catastrophic population event, called the Singularity. At that time, there were serious issues with population and shortages, but a new technology allowed the conscious of a human to be uploaded into a computer mainframe called Orion. This collective was then able to “download” the experiences of each “Ascender” into discrete automaton bodies. Ascenders had not only their own knowledge, but access to the minds of the billions who likewise ascended. Those who chose not to Ascend–Legacy Humans–Have been treated like museum pieces to some extent. They are now little more than entertainment for the Ascenders, existing in small Ascender-monitored communities where they have all the “basic” needs met, or off the grid in Believer/rebel colonies.
What is celebrated by Ascenders is the creativity of the Legacy mind. The ability to create–life, art–is venerated. As Legacies are meant to live, and die, the technology that Ascenders use on a daily basis to extend and improve life is denied to the Legacies.
At the time of the Singularity, any human could choose to Ascend, however that avenue is now closed. Currently, the only way for a Legacy to join Orion’s collective is to win one of four coveted, annual spaces in the Art Olympics. Each year the best Legacy (under age 18) in Art, Drama, Writing or Music is selected in the Agon Games–and each winner plus his/her immediate family is ascended. With the prospect of virtual immortality on the line, winning is difficult, if not downright deadly.
Eli is a 17 y/o Legacy Human who wants nothing more than to get his mother well. She suffers leukemia, a disease that Ascender gene tech can easily cure, but she is denied this treatment because, well, humans die. No point healing them if they are only going to die anyway, in the Ascender viewpoint. Eli is also a talented artist, and he is selling his art for illegal “chits” to buy the forbidden treatment. Eli has an Ascender patron, Lenora, who is helping him to improve his craft, and also assisting with the sales of his work.
Eli wishes to Ascend not only to save his mother, but also to be worthy of an equal relationship with Lenora–while Ascenders and Legacies can have “relations” this is highly frowned upon. Plus, Eli wants to be more than a domestic. He wants immortality, but Lenora will not sponsor him for the Agon Games. And, Eli’s mother doesn’t actually WANT to Ascend. She believes, as do many Legacies, that Ascending destroys the human soul.
Turns out, Lenora’s second (read: boyfriend/partner), Marcus, will. As Eli enters the Games, however, it turns out to be far harder for him than he imagined. Two “Agonites” are already dead, and the likelihood is high for another fatality. Eli is assisted by his dearest friend, Cyrus, and makes a few rebellious friends: Kamali, Basha and Delphina, all who do not actually wish to ascend. Eli is mystified; who wouldn’t wish to be perfection? Still, he hears their arguments against–the most incredible being this “soul” issue.
Eli’s art suffers from an inability to connect to his creative genius. It sometimes peeks out in a “fugue” state–he gets angry or upset and the art…happens. He wakes from this (almost) trance to find amazingly detailed paintings, the kind that could clearly win the Gold, but he cannot harness his fugue. It is transient, though seems to be happening with greater frequency. Kamali seems to be able to draw Eli into the fugue, however, and they pair up often to facilitate Eli’s chance.
As Eli and Kamali talk, Eli comes to realize that the Legacy and Ascender life are not all they seem. Eli recognizes that his true goal, to Ascend and save his mother and become Lenora’s second, are perhaps not the best goals. Well, he’s dead set on saving his mother, but perhaps being Ascended isn’t the perfection he craves after all…
THE LEGACY HUMAN is beautifully rendered with a lush world and the kind of moral dilemmas that are core issues in our own time. Do we have souls? What are the permanent effects of childhood decisions? Can we truly harness power for good, or will power always corrupt? Eli’s fight to save his mother extend throughout the Games and afterward–when he learns he’s been (perhaps) double/triple crossed. He is a strong, likable character and his plight is sympathetic. He competes for love–for his mother’s life and the woman he desires. That he is an inadvertent hero of a cause he didn’t know existed? Well, that’s for the next book.
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Thanks for popping in, and feel free to check out what were the best reads of my fellow Coffeehouse bloggers: