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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Gene Splicing YA Fiction: "Tankborn" by Karen Sandler

Publisher: TU Books of Lee & Low Books Inc.
Pages: 384
Release Date: October 2011
Genre:  YA Fiction/Dystopian/Sy-Fy

What They're Saying :

"A riveting, romantic, sci fi mystery
that explores the blurry lines between castes and what it means to be human. As suspenseful as thought-provoking--
I loved it!"
-Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of Tantalize

Book Summary :

Best friends Kayla and Mishalla know they will be separated when the time comes for their Assignments. They are GENs, Genetically Engineered Non-humans, and in their strict caste system, GENs are at the bottom rung of society. High-status trueborns and working-class lowborns, born naturally of a mother, are free to choose their own lives. But GENs are gestated in a tank, sequestered in slums, and sent to work as slaves as soon as they reach age fifteen.

When Kayla is Assigned to care for Zul Manel, the patriarch of a trueborn family, she finds a host of secrets and surprises-not least of which is her unexpected friendship with Zul's great-grandson. Meanwhile, the children that Mishalla is Assigned to care for are being stolen in the middle of the night. With the help of an intriguing lowborn boy, Mishalla begins to suspect that something horrible is happening to them.

After weeks of toiling in their Assignments, mystifying circumstances enable Kayla and Mishalla to reunite. Together they hatch a plan with their new friends to save the children who are disappearing. Yet can GENs really trust humans? Both girls must put their lives and hearts at risk to crack open a sinister conspiracy, one that may reveal secrets no one is ready to face.

Author's Bio.:

KAREN SANDLER is the author of seventeen novels for adults, as well as several short stories and screenplays. Before becoming a full-time writer, she worked as a software engineer, including work on the Space Shuttle program and communications satellites. Sandler first got the idea for Tankborn in the mid-1980s when she wrote it as a screenplay, and over the years while she was writing other books, the idea grew to include the planet Loka and Kayla’s life. Sandler lives in northern California with her husband, Gary, and their three cats, and can often be found riding her Andalusian/Morgan mare, Belle. This is her first novel for young adults.

The Dame's Review:

All dystopian/sy-fy novels are not created equal.  "Tankborn" is an exception to the ordinary in a variety of ways.  First, author Karen Sandler has a gifted imagination and writing skill that lures the reader in quickly.  Secondly, she writes in such a way that it's easy to visualize. This dystopian is a singular one.  It's not to be missed.

"Tankborn," refers to the quasi-people and animal mixes (GENs)
Sandler's new world produces by way of gene-DNA-splicing to birth "lowborns."  These "lowborns" are made to be the workers, indeed the slaves, of the new world--and to set the lowest chaste of the society. 

While the GENs think and feel for the most part at different levels parceled out to them, they can be reprogrammed and reset to perform tasks.  They can also be killed and abused at a whim.  These tankborns are the most vulnerable and disposable of all "people" in society.  In addition, they've been created to set the lowest rung of the societal scale, creating a hierarchy for marking the "trueborns."  They are cloaked in superstition, have mottled and a plethra of different skin colors and hair texture, and can also resemble some of the animals spliced into their genes.

Into this tankborn mix we're introduced to our main characters Kayla and her "tanksister," Mishalla.  They, of course, have no idea if they are sisters, but their close friendship keeps them connected.  At the age of puberty Gen's are separated from their Nurtur and given an Assignment.  Kayla's Assignment to an elderly highborn allows her path to cross with her friend who is operating as a Nurtur for baby orphans.  In a nutshell, the babies begin to be "taken" or to disappear. Disturbed by this, Kayla and Mishalla work together to find out why and where they're taken.  Kayla suspects she may have been one of these disappeared babies since she has a different face pattern and personality than the other tankborns.  She's always felt different from her fellow GENs.

I've given you as much of the background story as I can without spoiling it for you!  Now, it's up to you to discover the secrets of this captivating book, and to make your own conclusions about the gene-splicing.

I found "Tankborn" a book I didn't want to stop reading.  Its difference lies in the realism Ms Sandler creates around her characters. This is not a too sweet and too romantic story, but one with a contemplative warning.  She presents her story as if it takes place in this timeframe, and as if it reflects our own society or one that could be closely related to ours in the 21st century.

The concept of a hierarchy in society isn't a new one.  The idea of enslaving a group of people to assure the "haves" remain in control, in power and at the top of the financial structure is familiar throughout history.  Revolt and rising up against tyranny is inate, as well.

I thoroughly enjoyed "Tankborn," and can recommend it to you.  It's one I would get for your Kindle or Nook.

4 unspliced stars



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