I almost never read e-books because my attention span is too short (sad as that is to say). If I’m doing something else at the same time, I have far more patience—but if I’m a captive audience, a book has to be really good for me to make it past page 20 or so.
I got The Body Electric on sale, and I think I picked it up because of the title (and mostly the unexpected organization of the words—The Electric Body would have been far less intriguing than The Body Electric), and because of the cover. I love the silhouette look, and the collection of images outside the silhouette is great. I’ve seen other book covers do this too—it’s definitely a trend at the moment (though not yet quite as ubiquitous as zooming in on a character’s eye, or half their face, or the body without the head… or a girl in a ballgown. Love those trends too, but at this point I think they’re overdone. This is how my author marketing brain works, in case you care.)
ANYway, the futuristic world of The Body Electric actually felt a LOT like my world of Uncanny Valley: Artificial Intelligence, nanobots, retinal access to the internet, cyborg clones of humans, etc… and that was probably why I was so captivated by it. The main character, Ella (side note: that’s a very popular name for heroines these days. I bet there will be an explosion of baby girls named Ella in this generation) is the daughter of two brilliant scientists. Her mother created the Reverie mental spa, where people can relive their best memories in such a way that it feels like they are current (and this is a little like the film Total Recall). But she begins to suffer from the eventually fatal Hebb’s Disease, an illness that desensitizes her nerves so that she cannot feel pain. Nanobots can help her to repair from this, but only to a point, because there’s a threshold of the number of nanobots a person can have without developing the also fatal “bot brain.” Her father did research to try to save her mother, but Ella doesn’t understand much more about what he did than that. Her father is already dead when the story begins, supposedly killed by terrorists who didn’t like his work. The government approaches Ella to enlist her help in utilizing her parents’ research in their service, to work against the terrorists.
But a strange boy approaches Ella at her father’s grave, and seems to be familiar both with her and with her father. She has never seen him before, but in her dreams as well as her reveries, her father keeps appearing and telling her to “wake up,” and leading her to information about the boy, Jack. Since we are in Ella’s head, we follow the trail of clues along with her to discover who he is, and why she can’t remember him. If you’re guessing there will be a romance between Ella and Jack, you’re right—but while it is occasionally roll-your-eyes cheesy (they’re at one point hiding in a refrigerated morgue together, and all she can think about is the way his body feels against hers? Give me a break). But for all that, romance is actually a very small part of the story. Most of the plot is nonstop action, with twists and turns and revelations that kept me hooked. I also really appreciated how short her chapters were (again: short attention span. What can I say, I’m an American, and a millennial), and while I keep writing trilogies so I guess I can’t say much, it was actually refreshing that this book was a stand-alone. I didn’t have to get the next book to find out how the story ends. Definitely worth a read.
My rating: **** 1/2
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