Book Review: THIS CRUEL DESIGN by Emily Suvada

Genre: Sci-Fi/Dystopia
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4/5 Stars
Series: yes - book 2
CW: bodily harm, plague

SPOILER ALERT: contains spoilers for THIS MORTAL COIL


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Cat almost died to unlock the vaccine for Hydra – the vaccine that’s made life on the surface a daily fight for survival. But now it’s mutating, evolving into something new – something deadlier – and the vaccine’s not working.

The gene-tech company Cartaxus has a ‘solution’: kill everyone on the surface with lethal code. They’ll unleash the code in three days, if Cat can’t find her father – the man who tortured her friends and changed her mind and body.

As Cat searches for her father – and a better solution than Cartaxus – she must learn about the girl she was. Unable to trust those around her, Cat is running out of time. The secrets buried in her mind might buy them a shot at survival, but the truth could be far worse than the current situation.

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This book fully deserves to be called Sci-Fi – the science feels so real, the natural extrapolation of where tech will be in a few decades time. My degree isn’t biology based, but I’m handing it on to a bio-maths friend and will see what he says!

I adore science – in fact, I’m studying the other Sciences for my degree – and I love books that can integrate science so seamlessly into the action. You don’t have to be clued up on biology or genetics or gene-tech to follow along – I haven’t done any for five years now and I understood it all. Plus, for those of you who are in love with the other sciences (like me!), there is plenty of it sprinkled in. Take the FIRST line:

It’s midnight, the sunset is still fading into darkness, the day stretched late by our northern latitude and the Earth’s axial tilt.

There – Earth Science/Physics. In the FIRST LINE. I love this so much, and it sets up the book so perfectly, science interwoven into the very fabric of the story. It’s an intelligent book, that never once insults the reader by explaining the science as if we’re a baby.

THIS CRUEL DESIGN also explores the ethical issues related to gene-tech, without coming firmly down on one side. I love how we’re allowed to chose what we think is morally right, even as Cat comes to her own decisions.

Right, enough about the science. If the idea of science scares you off, don’t go yet – there’s so much more to it.

The world is stellar, built on the firm premise above (I promised no more s-word!), and the plots pulls you along. It’s twisty and pulse-racing. As well as action to rival that of the first book, this one has a mystery feel. Jun Bei is a mystery, and unlocking her and her memories adds a nice dash of intrigue. What memories will Cat get from Jun Bei? Will it be worth the pain and emotional/mental doubt to unlock her secrets?

The characters are so compelling. Cat’s ethical dilemmas are fascinating, as she struggles with working out which side of the line she’s on – considering everything Jun Bei’s done. Lee is amazing – he and Cat have the best relationship in the whole book. They have a sibling/best friend relationship with no hint of romance. And him calling Cat ‘Squid’ is great.

Mato is a puzzle. His actions are so in character, but his reasoning is so flawed. I loved how hard he was to predict – and the way Emily Suvada wrote him so that I wanted to trust him, but also wanted Cat to run away from him.

I kept thinking Agnes was going to turn around and actually be Lachlan hacked into a new shape. I’m glad she didn’t, but I just couldn’t trust her at all. She appeared too much out of the blue.

Cat and Cole’s relationship goes down one of those ‘she overhears a conversation that makes her mistrust and doubt him’ paths. That upset me, because I hate relationship drama that’s all about a misunderstanding that they could have resolved if they did the regular human thing and TALKED about it. It always feels like the author is just trying to create drama for drama’s sake. This book is so much more intelligent than that.

This drama doesn’t play out the way I thought it would – and it’s a lot more complicated than a simple misunderstanding. I totally understood Cole’s reasoning but… I didn’t hate the resolution of the drama, but I didn’t love it either. This is definitely the book’s weakest point, and could have worked just as easily without.

However, Lee raises the very important point that Cole is very protective, and that isn’t a particularly good thing for a relationship to be built on. I’m glad it was raised (and made me more hopeful of it being more than a misunderstanding), but could have been taken so much further.

I’m not sure how much I can say about Jun Bei without spoiling the book, but I want to see more of her. She is so complex, and it made Lachlan far more interesting too.

The ending… Please, release the next book so I can buy it right now.

Read my reviews of other books by Emily Suvada:

This Mortal Coil (this series):


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