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“Redefines ‘unputdownable.’” —Amie Kaufman, New York Times bestselling author of Iluminae
“I was thrilled. I was shocked.” —NPR
“Stunning twists and turns.” —BCCB (starred review)
In this gripping debut novel, seventeen-year-old Cat must use her gene-hacking skills to decode her late father’s message concealing a vaccine to a horrifying plague.
Catarina Agatta is a hacker. She can cripple mainframes and crash through firewalls, but that’s not what makes her special. In Cat’s world, people are implanted with technology to recode their DNA, allowing them to change their bodies in any way they want. And Cat happens to be a gene-hacking genius.
That’s no surprise, since Cat’s father is Dr. Lachlan Agatta, a legendary geneticist who may be the last hope for defeating a plague that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction. But during the outbreak, Lachlan was kidnapped by a shadowy organization called Cartaxus, leaving Cat to survive the last two years on her own.
When a Cartaxus soldier, Cole, arrives with news that her father has been killed, Cat’s instincts tell her it’s just another Cartaxus lie. But Cole also brings a message: before Lachlan died, he managed to create a vaccine, and Cole needs Cat’s help to release it and save the human race.
Now Cat must decide who she can trust: The soldier with secrets of his own? The father who made her promise to hide from Cartaxus at all costs? In a world where nature itself can be rewritten, how much can she even trust herself?
About the Author
Emily Suvada was born and raised in Australia, where she went on to earn a degree in mathematics. She previously worked as a data scientist, and still spends hours writing algorithms to perform tasks which would only take her minutes to complete on her own. When not writing, she can be found hiking, cycling, and conducting chemistry experiments in her kitchen. She currently lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband.
Read an Excerpt
This Mortal Coil
IT’S SUNSET, AND THE SKY is aflame, not with clouds or dust, but with the iridescent feathers of a million genehacked passenger pigeons. They soar across the sky like a live impressionist painting in brilliant swirling arcs of tangerine and gold. Their strange cries sound like pebbles tossed against a window, and they move in perfect unison, blocking out the sun.
Amateur coders in Nevada rebuilt the long-extinct pigeon’s DNA, then spliced it into something new and bold. Razor-tipped beaks. Metabolic hijacks. Color-shifting feathers to signal danger to the flock with a single muscle twitch.
Through years of work, they crafted the pigeons to be stronger than their ancestors. They’re leaner, smarter, fiercer.
And they made them look like fire.
I lean out over the cabin’s porch railing, my hips pressed into the wood, squinting through the scope of my father’s rifle. Without magnification, the flock is just a blur of stippled color, but through the scope, with my ocular tech sharpening my vision, the colors resolve into the wings and chests of individual birds.
“Come on, little birdy,” I breathe, squeezing the trigger. The shot echoes off the mountains, and the scent of gunpowder fills the air. That’s homemade powder. Low sulfur, fine grade, nanoprinted in the basement, rigged to fire a tranquilizer dart and bring me down a bird without killing it.
The dart whistles through the air, a mere blur even with my tech. My audio filters peg it at Mach 2, which is far too high. My calculations were wrong again. I look away too late and see the dart hit a pigeon, blowing it into a puff of colored feathers.
“Dammit,” I snap, dropping the rifle, not bothering to flick on the safety. It’s now a thirty-pound paperweight, since I’m officially out of ammo. Well, not if you count the bullet swinging from the chain around my neck. But that’s my insurance bullet, and it only comes off as a last resort.
The dead bird drops like a stone, tumbling down to land on the rocky shore of the cabin’s tiny private lake. The flock shifts direction instantly, letting out a deafening warning cry that echoes off the steep mountain slopes like a hail of gunfire.
“I know, I know,” I mutter. The flock scatters angrily, their plumage twitching to crimson, telegraphing the attack. I didn’t want to hurt it. The bird was supposed to be a present. A little genehacked pet for my neighbor, Agnes, to keep her company. Now I’ll have to bury it, because I sure as hell won’t eat it. Barely anyone eats meat anymore, not since the outbreak.
The last two years have taught us what we could not forget: that animals taste a lot like people.
The porch’s wooden railing squeaks as I launch myself over it and jog through the yard to the circle of feathers near the lake. A breeze dances through the knee-high grass, sweeping in across the water, carrying the cries of the pigeons, the chill of the evening, and the rich, deep scent of the forest.
It’s wild out here. This secluded valley nestled deep in the Black Hills has been my home for the last three years and my sanctuary from the outbreak. Steep, forested mountains rise on either side of the lake, and my ramshackle log cabin sits just a short walk back from the shore. It’s so well-hidden that you almost have to know where it is to find it, but it’s close enough to town that I can ride in on my bike. All things considered, it’s a perfect place to spend the apocalypse, with only one down side: The comm reception sucks.
“Hey, Bobcat. This . . . Agnes . . .”
I tilt my head as Agnes’s elderly voice crackles in my ears, blasting through my subdermal comm-link. She checks up on me nearly every day but refuses to text me. Always calls, even though I can’t hear her. I close my eyes, drawing up the mental interface to send a text, but her voice breaks through in a burst of static.
“Urgent . . . danger . . .”
Her voice cuts out. No static, nothing.
I spin around, bolting straight up the side of the mountain.
“Agnes?” I shout. Damn Russian satellites. They’re a century old, but they’re all we can use now that Cartaxus has taken over every other network on the planet. My comm-link can get texts in the cabin, but every time I want to take a call, I have to run half a mile uphill.
Static fills my ears. “. . . reading me . . . Bobcat?”
“Hang on!” I yell, racing up the rocky slope. The path between the trees is still wet from last night’s rain. I skid as I race around a switchback, scrambling to keep myself upright.
She might be hurt. She’s all alone. The old girl is armed and tough as nails, but there are things in this world you can’t fight. Things that have no cure.
“Almost there!” I shout, forcing myself up the final stretch. I burst into the clearing at the summit and double over. “Agnes? Are you okay? Can you hear me?”
A beat of satellite-lag silence hangs in my ears, and then Agnes’s voice returns. “I’m fine, Bobcat. Didn’t mean to scare you.”
I drop to my knees in the grass, trying to catch my breath. “You nearly gave me a heart attack.”
“Sorry. But I guess I figured out how to make you answer your comm.”
I roll my eyes and push the sweat-soaked hair from my face. “What’s so urgent?”
“You up on your hill?”
“Well, I am now.”
She chuckles, her voice popping with static. “I just got a call from one of the locals. They spotted a jeep out near your place. Big black thing. You see anything from up there?”
I push myself to my feet and scan the forest. From this outlook, on a clear day, I can see for miles. The Black Hills roll out before me, tumbling granite draped with pines, dotted with the flash of lakes and a web of leaf-strewn roads. This time of day two years ago, the highway to the east would have been lit up with a steady stream of headlights from the evening commute. There would have been planes flying into Rapid and the glow of houses through the trees, but instead the hills are dark, and the highway is an empty stretch of black.
All the houses are shuttered, and the land is dotted with craters. It always makes me sick to see it like this, but it’s the only place I can get reception.
“No headlights,” I mutter. “They might be using infrared. You sure it was a jeep?”
“Brand-new, they said. Has to be Cartaxus.”
The hair on the back of my neck rises. I’ve never seen a jeep out here before. Cartaxus always sends its troops out in camouflaged trucks, with whining drones for air support. I scan the forest again, straining my ocular tech until my vision starts to glitch.
“I tried calling you,” Agnes says. “A few times, the last couple of days.”
“I’ve been in the lab,” I mutter, scanning the roads. “Trying to make gunpowder.”
“That sounds dangerous.”
A half smile tugs at my lips, and my fingers twitch instinctively, running over the sensitive, newly regrown skin on my palms. “There were some minor explosions. Nothing my healing tech couldn’t handle.”
Agnes clicks her tongue. “Bobcat. When did you last eat?”
“Um . . . yesterday?”
“Do you have clean clothes?”
I glance down at my filthy sweater, my dirt-encrusted jeans. “Uhh . . .”
“Get yourself over here right now, young lady. I don’t like the sound of this jeep, and you need to get out of that godforsaken lab for a night. Right now, you hear me?”
I bite back a laugh. “Okay, Yaya. I’ll be there soon.”
“Damn straight you will. And bring your dirty clothes with you.”
The connection clicks off in my ears with a hiss, leaving me grinning. Agnes isn’t really my yaya, though she certainly acts like it. We don’t share DNA, but we’ve shared food and tears, and ever since the outbreak, that’s all that really counts. Sometimes I think the only reason either of us is still alive is that we can’t bear the thought of leaving the other alone.
I stretch my arms over my head, scanning the forest one last time before dialing my ocular tech back down. The embedded panel in my forearm that powers my tech chews through a few hundred calories a day even on standby, and food isn’t exactly plentiful anymore. My vision blurs as my eyes refocus, and it takes me a second to realize there’s a plume on the horizon that wasn’t there before.
I freeze, counting the seconds until the crack hits my ears. The plume rises before spreading, mushrooming out across the sky. The flock of pigeons fragments into wild, panicked streams, racing away from the billowing cloud. The sound takes fifteen seconds to hit me, which tells me it’s three miles away. Too far to make out the details, but I can tell the cloud is a sickly shade of pink.
That’s the color of a human body when its cells are ripped open, blown into mist, and spat into the air.
A Hydra cloud.
My stomach lurches. Depending on which way the wind is blowing, this distant cloud just might kill me. One breath is all it takes. One lungful of swirling, airborne virus particles that will swarm through every cell in your body. You’ll get a fever; you’ll incubate; then two weeks later you’ll go off like a grenade, infecting everyone in a mile-wide radius.
There’s no cure, no treatment. There’s one way to get immunity, but it’s been twenty-six days since I last took a dose.
Agnes’s voice crackles in my ears. “That . . . near you?”
I close my eyes, using a mental command to switch my comm over to text mode. It’s slower—I have to focus harder, bringing up each word separately in my mind—but it doesn’t need a clear signal.
3 miles, I send. Blowing further east. Probably out of infection radius.
haul out quick, she replies.
I will. She doesn’t need to tell me twice.
I pause as I turn back to the trail, watching the cloud drift. It’s twice as big as the clouds I first saw in the outbreak, two years ago. The virus is evolving, and the blasts are getting stronger. If they keep growing, pretty soon there won’t be anywhere left to hide.
I push the thought away, jogging back down the mountain, trying to dodge the worst of the mud. There’s no need to panic about a cloud as far away as this, but without immunity, I can’t help but feel a little nervous.
I glance back as I descend into the trees, telling myself that it’s miles away, that I’ll be fine. I’ll go to Agnes’s place, and she’ll feed me lentils and her disgusting licorice candies like she always does. We’ll fire up her woodstove and play a game of cards. Simple. Easy. But just as the cabin comes into view, another crack tears through the air, and I jerk to a stop.
A second plume shoots up, pink and leaf strewn and terrifying. Close enough that I forget to count the seconds that pass until I hear it. The mist billows into the air like a living, heaving thing, unfurling through the forest, sending the pigeons scattering. The wind is dragging it away from me, but the wind can change in a heartbeat.
This cloud is far too close. I’m going to have to run.
Agnes’s name pops up in my vision as I race down the mountain.
I KNOW, I reply, skidding to the bottom of the hill.
dont like this bobcat, she says. shdnt let ur immunity lapse.
There’s nothing I can say to that because I know she’s right; it was reckless to let myself run out of doses. There was a reason, but thinking about it now makes my cheeks burn with its sheer stupidity.
I bolt up the cabin’s stairs to the porch and grab my rucksack and knife, picking up the rifle before throwing it back down. Dead weight. I race out to my bike, an old BMX with a rusted frame that can handle dirt trails like nobody’s business. I sling my rucksack over my shoulder, slip my knife into my belt, and haul the bike out from the bushes I keep it hidden in. One leg is over it, my grip tight on the handlebars, when an alert from my audio tech sends me flying into a crouch.
Rustling. Nearby. An unenhanced ear wouldn’t hear it, but my filters sharpen the sound into slow, heavy footsteps. Labored and staggering. The way people move when they’re infected.
They’re just beyond me, in the trees, and they’re coming my way.
“Oh shit,” I breathe, my hands shaking.
near me, I send to Agnes, my mind spinning so fast that I can barely form the words.
HIDE NOW, she replies.
The command is so unlike her, so frantic and bizarre that I don’t even pause to question it. I just drop my bike and run.
The cabin is too far, but there’s a willow near the lake, and I haul myself up through the branches, my newly healed palms scraping against the bark. I kick and claw my way to a high branch in a matter of seconds, flying up the tree on sheer adrenaline. As soon as I find my balance, a man crashes through the bushes, and I hold my nose at the exact moment he splashes into the lake.
It’s a blower, no doubt about it. He falls to his knees in the shallows, sucking in a wet, labored breath. He’s badly wounded. Scarlet rivers run down his arms, trickling from innumerable gashes and bite marks covering his skin. It looks like a mob got him. I can see his teeth through the stringy hole in one cheek, and his eyes are swollen shut, his ears reduced to stumps of cartilage.
He’s bleeding out and feverish. Definitely infected. Second stage, probably a day away from detonating. Even with my fingers clamped over my nose, I can still feel my body starting to shake in response to his scent.
There’s nothing quite like the scent of infection. No odor or perfume matches the sharp, sulfurous clouds that roll off a Hydra victim’s skin. Some people liken it to the scent of burning plastic or the air after a lightning strike. I’ve always thought it smelled like the hot springs I visited as a child. Whatever the comparison, nobody gets much time to think about it, because as soon as the scent hits you, it takes your breath away.
And that’s not all it does.
I grit my teeth, fighting the response building inside me. My fingers curl instinctively, clawing into the bark of the tree. Breathing the scent won’t hurt me—blowers aren’t infectious until they detonate—but the scent will crawl into my mind, igniting a response that’s impossible to control. Even forcing myself to breathe through my mouth, I can still feel it whispering, rising inside me like a curse. It wants me to grab the knife sheathed at my thigh, to drop from my perch in the tree.
To unleash the monster that wakes in me at the merest whiff of infection.
But I don’t want to yield to it. I tighten my grip on the tree, shake my head, and invoke my comm-link. In . . . tree . . . above him, I send to Agnes.
The man tries to get up, but he’s too weak. He falls to his knees, letting out a moan. The wind lifts his scent into the branches, and it hits me like a punch.
u must do it, Agnes replies.
I blink the words away. My chest is shuddering, my vision starting to blur.
no choice bobcat. its the only way
I won’t, I write, then delete it, because she’s right. Or maybe it’s because the scent has me by the throat, shattering my self-control. Either way, there’s a cloud less than a mile from me, and there’s only one way to guarantee that I’ll make it out of this alive. I need immunity, or I’ll die. The math is simple. I draw my knife, my stomach turning at the thought of what I have to do.
The man below me starts to cry, oblivious to my presence. The blood flowing from the bite marks on his skin forms swirls of scarlet in the lake’s clear water. A single mouthful of his flesh, choked down in the next few minutes, will give me immunity from the virus for the next two weeks. This is the Hydra virus’s cruelest side: It forces the healthy to eat the sick. To hunt and kill and feed on each other to save ourselves. Nature designed this plague as a double-edged sword: It either takes your life, or it takes your humanity.
I shift on the branch, staring down at the man, my knuckles white on the knife. My other hand is still locked on my nose, holding back the scent in a desperate attempt to fight it for just a moment more. My comm-link hisses wildly in my ears. Agnes knows me well enough to guess that I’m hesitating, and she’s trying to call me, screaming that he’ll be dead soon anyway, that he’d want me to do it.
But I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to justify this, to keep the circle of death going. This is why I stopped taking doses, why I let my immunity lapse. I just wanted a few precious weeks of something like a normal life, without someone else’s blood itching in my veins. I wanted to keep the monster locked away, to rise above my instincts.
But deeper down, the hunger is growing.
This man’s sharp, sulfurous scent has clawed its way into my lungs, and my hands are already shaking. It’s a neurological response. The scent pounds against my mind like fists against a cracking wall until I can’t hold it back anymore.
When I finally drop my hand from my nose and let the smell sweep into my lungs, it feels like drawing breath for the first time.
For a moment I’m free, weightless and euphoric, like the moment at the top of a roller coaster before you hurtle down.
Then it hits. A jolt. A cataclysm of rage, rocketing through my muscles, curling my lips back in a snarl.
My eyes snap down to the man below me, the knife gripped in my hands.
The world blinks to scarlet, and I launch myself into gravity’s arms.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I am SHOOK. People, get this on your TBR list. This Mortal Coil is the perfect blend of disturbing, post-apocalyptic, techie sci-fi (too many adjectives?) action with enough twists to shock even the most intuitive reader. I don't even know how to go about writing a concise synopsis for this novel because there's just too much to digest. Catarina is a talented hacker and the daughter of a legendary geneticist in a world where everyone possesses the technology to manipulate their own DNA. It has been two years since a deadly virus began sweeping the planet and two years since Cat's father was forcibly taken by the shady organization Cartaxus to create a vaccine. Ever since, Cat has been living in an isolated cabin, avoiding the volatile Lurkers, and struggling to survive both the elements and the virus. However, the appearance of a soldier belonging to the very organization she has grown to hate and fear throws her into a tailspin. Cole carries not only the life-altering news that Cat's father is dead, but that she is the key to decoding the vaccine needed to save humanity from the evolving virus. Faced with a seemingly impossible task, Cat is forced to call into question not only the truth about her father and Cartaxus, but her entire existence. This Mortal Coil throws around a lot of futuristic tech jargon about coding and gene sequencing that was unfamiliar, but which flows effortlessly in this story. I can't applaud Suvada enough for writing a post-apocalyptic story that felt not only fresh but incredibly smart and relevant. The characters are dynamic, the world building inventive, and the core story shockingly riveting.
A post-apocalyptic genetic engineering thriller? I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book, and it far exceeded my expectations. I'm a little bit of a science geek, so all the talk of DNA sequencing, gene mutation, and computer coding had me doing a happy dance. Given, none of this is possible in the present, (to my knowledge), but it sure makes for a riveting story, and is explained in understandable terms. I've read quite a few post-apocalyptic novels, and several times while reading this book was on the verge of disappointment, certain I knew the often traveled path this plot was taking. I was overjoyed when it veered off into new directions, cheering with the numerous twists and surprises. Early on, I caught a whiff of the dreaded YA love triangle, but trust me when I say that's not what develops. Yes, there's romance, but it's far from the primary focus. This Mortal Coil is a complex, intelligent, intricately-plotted novel combining post-apocalyptic, thriller, and science genres, and is at the top of my favorite YA reads this year. I'll definitely continue with this series. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the digital ARC.
This Mortal Coil is strikingly genius! It is full of high adrenaline twists, exciting science fiction kicks, and rousing character hits! If you are looking for a fast paced, action packed Sci-fi, look no further! This Mortal Coil was OUTSTANDING! I could not put it down! I knew I would love it after reading the synopsis, but WOW, am I impressed! The writing was impeccable. For as long as the book was, I never felt like it dragged anywhere or felt like anything was out of place, or needed to be shorter. The world building and plot development were incredible. Suvada must have done immense research before writing this book, because the bits about the virus, the DNA coding, and the technology felt so real and possible. I felt like this was the type of story that fit perfectly with zombie video games and movies. I also felt like it reminded me a bit of Terminator, which I LOVED! The story flowed so smoothly, and kept on the edge of my seat! I loved the characters and their development as well. Catarina was such an interesting character to read! She was strong, brave, and determined, but also vulnerable and emotional, and confused. She didn’t feel like the typical YA character, she felt real, and relate-able. Her back story was so well written, and her character, and personality transformation, was really unique and intriguing! Cole reminded me a little of Kyle Reese from Terminator (I guess that you means you have to watch it if you haven’t yet ;-P). He was brave, protective, and alluring. He held dangerous secrets, and also had a deep, intriguing past, and a unique reason for his actions, and his protectiveness. He almost fit that trope of the “over-protective YA male,” but didn’t because of his unique situation. Dax and Leoben were both enjoyable, supporting characters. They were each unique in their own way, had interesting back stories, and add depth to the book. Dax added nostalgia and a little conflict, while Leoben added humor and intrigue. There was not one piece of this story that I did not enjoy. It had a great pace, fantastic plot twists, well developed characters, and awesome bits of Science Fiction, Horror, and Suspense! I could see everything so clearly while I was reading and felt my heart pounding the entire time! I will definitely read more from this author in the future! Thank you to The Flying Fantastic Book Club and Simon & Schuster/ Simon Pulse for sending me this free e-ARC in exchange for my honest review, and as part of the blog tour.
This is one of my top three reads from 2017. In fact, it’s probably my favorite YA novel that year. Emily Suvada has crafted a well-written thrill ride that subverts a lot of tropes. It’s an intelligent sci-fi conspiracy thriller. The world-building is brilliantly executed. This Mortal Coil is The Walking Dead meets Jason Bourne sprinkled with a sci-fi twist on Daughter of Smoke & Bone. Emily Suvada manages to take all the best parts of those stories and creates an amazing look at what our world would be like if we could tweak our bodies to our every whim. The book challenges the reader with a lot of questions that are all born from how much genetics dictates who and what we are and will become. Just as important, should we be allowed to tinker with what nature has made us? The biggest praise I can give This Mortal Coil is that it’s the kind of book I want to shove into other people’s hands so they’ll read it.
This Mortal Coil took me on a nonstop, action-packed adventure from the start. Emily Suvada writes with sharp detail and keeps the reader hooked on every word. I highly recommend this novel to anyone wanting to escape into a world of excitement!
This book started off strange for me. You are introduced to your MC two years after the plague and you get some back story as you go along with her in her journey of survival and trying to find a cure. With this plague, called Hydra, you have to eat the skin of the infected to stay alive. You have to do unimaginable things in this world to stay alive and keep immunity. One afternoon a Cartaxus solider arrives at Cat's home and she thinks he is there to take her away into the bunkers where her father Lachlan told her is wasn't safe, so she runs The writing in this novel is so well written and amazing. You are constantly seeing the characters go and move, it is somewhat fast paced and not a slow novel. You are thrown from her campsite to mines to the bunkers to the skies network and then the lab. You see her struggle with come to terms with things about her father and who she is, while also going through unimaginable pain. One thing I did enjoy most about this novel was all the technology. They have healing techs and apps to help cure diseases. I loved how everything revolved around the technology and coding. It was fascinating how the author created a world in which you could alter the way you look and your overall health with a few pieces of code, I was amazed. I did enjoy the book, but I hated the love trope in the book. It had its part in the novel, but it was just really annoying to me and seemed to take away from the story, to me. I am fine with the lovey stuff, but this just seemed a bit over done in a apocalyptic setting to me. I wish the author would have dialed it back a bit. Overall I enjoyed this novel and loved every minute reading it. I read this novel in two days and just couldn't put it down. The virus and all the technology not to mention the story line was amazing. It was such an intense ending that I really didn't see coming. I can not wait to see where the author takes this series. Im assuming it will be a series by the cliff hanger at the end.
This Mortal Coil is a brilliant science fiction thriller that was intricate, smart, and entertaining. I actually read this book in one sitting because I just couldn't put it down. I adored that Suvada included so much science, particularly relating to genetics and infectious diseases. While I did guess at some aspects of the plot, it was still enjoyable enough that I never debated whether or not to keep reading. Also, this book gets extra points since the title is a Shakespeare reference. This Mortal Coil had some excellent world-building, I was able to easily picture this dystopian future. A warning though - there are some more graphic parts that more squeamish readers may not find palatable. However, I loved the idea of the deadly plague and how it affected humanity. Additionally, the technology was well-explained, particularly in regard to genetic manipulation. The app idea is so cool! You can tell that Suvada did her research and is knowledgable about the fields, particularly since she addressed some of the major contemporary issues in genetic ethics and infectious diseases. Catarina, or Cat, was a relatable, likable main character. At the beginning, I loved how determined she was to not get trapped beneath the surface. As the story unfolded, I grew to like her more. I also respected the choices she made. Cat was a very flawed character. However, she admits that to herself and learns to grow from her mistakes. The romance was one part of the book that I could have done without, particularly since I dislike love triangles. I just never really felt the spark between her and Cole (or her and Dax). I think the story would have been just as good if they'd remained friends instead. However, the romance wasn't a huge part of the story so I was okay with it. This Mortal Coil is easily one of the best YA science fiction books I've read this year. Some of the plot twists were utterly brilliant and I can't wait for book two! If you're a fan of science, you'll adore this book. I would also recommend to YA dystopian fans. *Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
“There’s no such thing as right anymore - that ended when the plague hit. Sometimes we need to do awful things to stop worse things from happening. You’re still thinking in terms of right and wrong, but this is war, and the rules have changed.” I don’t think I’ve ever had such mixed feelings about a book in my entire life. On one hand, I LOVED so much of it - the worldbuilding, the high stakes, the grey morality, the desperate tone - all things I really enjoyed. However, one twist left me feeling pretty weird, and created this uncomfortable feeling that lasted the rest of the book. Regardless, This Mortal Coil was an experience that I will not soon forget. We follow gene-hacking genius, Catarina Agatta, as she searched for the key to rebuild a vaccine to the deadly Hydra virus and stay out of the clutches of Cartaxus - the shadow organization that captured her father two years ago. With the help of a childhood friend and a few reluctant partners in the form of Cartaxus soldiers, Cat discovers shocking secrets about her past and the world she thought she knew. Things I Liked I really love all the sciencey and genetics aspects in the story. Color me shocked because science really isn’t my thing, but it was all so interesting and believable. I really liked learning all about DNA and genetics. I thought the gene-hacking things was really cool, and I liked that each child who was a part of the Zarathurstra Initiative (Cole, Leoben, Jun Bei, Anna, and Ziana) has some special capability related to their DNA. It was all very compelling and kept me engaged. There was this creepy and anxious overall tone that created tension and uneasiness throughout the whole story, and made it a perfect book to read during this time of the year. There are also SO MANY unexpected revelations. The threats and dangers all seem very real making a high stakes environment that makes you want to keep reading. This world is so morally grey, and I was so here for it. In this world, survival is paramount and most people are willing to do anything to ensure they survive. There are lie and schemes and underhandedness that all blur the lines between right and wrong. I loved seeing Cat confronting this reality that she wanted to ignore. With such high stakes and fast action plot, I was worried the characters would fall to the wayside. But I really became invested in the characters and their relationships. My heart kept going out to characters and they drew emotion from me. Things I Didn’t Like The book did feel a little too long. I don’t necessarily feel like anything was filler-y, but some parts did drag a bit. The romance started to feel a little forced the more we got into the story. I felt like there were some plot choices made, just to directly influence the romances, and is started to get a little heavy handed. Now for the big twist that made for feel kinda weird. Massive spoilers behind the cut. At around the 90% mark we learn that Cat is actually Jun Bei. Jun Bei’s ability is to be able to mimic and change her DNA, and Dr. Lachlan Agatta made her into Cat, erasing all memories of her early life. This reveal made me feel pretty uncomfortable - it felt like we got rid of an Asian American character in Jun Bei, and turned her into a white character, Catarina. I know Lachlan talked about how the knockout kids that were part of the Zarathursa program were born from plague DNA, and we never really get to actually see Jun Bei, but it still made me feel weird.