“… the equivalent of a catwalk disease.”
Sequela is set in a future where fashion sense includes “wearing” genetically engineered, sexually transmitted diseases as proof of desirability and power. Dr. Kester Lowe is a fashion-virus designer who wants to make disease beautiful, exchanging sores and ooze with metallic colored irises or glow-in-the-dark lymph nodes. His childhood friend and colleague, Dr. Dee Campbell, believes he ought to be using his gifts to develop a new, affordable nanoscreen – an elite device that acts as an artificial immune system – for the masses. Kester half-heartedly agrees with her, and claims intent to pursue the research on his own time at his new job with mega-pharmaceutical corporation, V. But the climb to fame, partnered with his new love affair with CEO Alexis Farrell, leaves him little time to think about anything else.
This novel makes some interesting points about how medical technology has changed (is changing?) our views about sex. When the threats of disease or unwanted pregnancy are removed, will sex lose its emotional potency? The way everyone in Sequela behaves seems to point that direction, but Kester hangs on to that part of his humanity. In a corporate world where sex is required to seal the deal, he’s prepared himself physically, if not emotionally, to do what it takes.
After he gets the job and begins to acclimate to his slick, new life, his relationship with his academic friends is strained, and he alienates his life-long friend, Dee. Other than that, nothing major happens until sixty-six percent of the way in, when someone gets inexplicably ill and Kester is forced to focus on developing his new nanoscreens. Prior to this point, I believe that a lot of the scenes, description, and backstory could be cut or tightened.
The book suffers from overly long descriptions (admittedly, sometimes beautiful – the author’s poet background shines through) and scenes that don’t move the story forward. Some introduce secondary characters we never interact with again (e.g. Marlene and Tim,) and some occur in unwieldy paragraphs two and a half screens long on my Kindle Fire on normal setting. In addition, the dialogue overuses certain words e.g., “well,” “listen,” and “so.” Shifts of point of view within a scene seemed excessive, and sometimes there were scene breaks for no apparent reason. I also found the formatting choice of a simple return space between scenes sometimes confusing.
Other minor craft flaws include incorrect punctuation, missing quotation marks, missing capitalization, missing prepositions, excessive use of adverbs, and what I consider the overuse of colons and semi colons.
The end scene is a bit ambiguous for my taste. I would prefer to have had a clear view of what the “new normal” will be (particularly for Dee.) Kester’s life is not significantly different than when he began work at V. I suppose one could say that academic life has become extinct in the face of big business, but I’m unclear whether we should mourn the loss or not.
I enjoyed the author’s terms for items in this futuristic world. Everyone has a Book – like a Smartphone in many ways, only more detailed and with biological functions. The fukpunks and Pigs and Real Church and nanoscreens made the world more real.
Sequela bravely addresses some thought provoking ideas. How far will we go in the name of fashion? Is it fair for cutting edge healthcare to be available only to an elite few? Are we undermining (or increasing?) the value of sex in our society?
While I love the premise of Sequela, because of the technical errors and the lagging story structure and pace until the sixty-six percent mark, I have to give it 2.5 stars.
Reviewed on behalf of the Awesome Indies