Fifty years after the Singularity, the world is divided into two populations locked in a cold war: Synthetic Citizens, or Syns, human-computer hybrids with extraordinary enhancements and potentially infinite lifespans; and Originals, the women and men who did not merge their bodies with the machines.
But the decades-long battle between Original and Syn is almost at an end, because the Originals are on the verge of extinction. One of the only young Originals left in the world, Ere, knows he might someday be the very last of his kind. But when he meets a beautiful, powerful Syn girl called Ever, he questions everything he’s ever been told about his lifelong enemies.
Original Syn is a rich, dangerous world of family secrets, free will, forbidden love, and all of the unexpected peril that arises when aggressive technology meets stubborn humanity.
Beth Kander grew up in the small-town Midwest and spent more than a decade in the Deep South, always collecting stories. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Mississippi University for Women and a Master of Social Work from the University of Michigan. Her novels draw readers in to her characters' lives, often exploring haunted pasts, interconnected narratives, or re-imagined folklore. An award-winning playwright, she has more than a half-dozen scripts represented by Stage Rights, is the playwright in residence each fall at the Ashland New Plays Festival, and has worked with theaters across the country. She lives in Chicago with her family and their giant rescue dog Oz. For more: www.bethkander.com
So I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this exciting first book of a trilogy. Let's be honest...we love a good dystopian story and no worries this is that. But, it's so much more. I know I have read an exciting book when I find myself reading a chapter and I can't move to the next chapter...I have to reread that chapter again...it had too much...I didn't get everything that was there...I read it too fast...I need to saturate and bath in it more. I had this type of moment a few times while reading this book and it was wonderful. So I will start with the first page...when you finish the book...go back and read the first page again. There is an amazing "aha moment"...NO SPOILERS, I PROMISE...but what a phenomenal surprise! The pace of this book is outstanding, I avoid phrases like "page turner", we all read at a different pace...but the variation of page turning that happens with this compelling story makes it very hard to put it down and go to bed. The flashbacks that create more than this fascinating world are so well woven into this novel. I love when we the reader finds the answer to need-to-know questions along with the characters and avoids the pitfalls of "plodding exposition" that can so easily happen when you create a fictitious world. The characters; the wonderfully, flawed, connectable, and truthful characters are the most honest and relatable people. Again, no spoilers, but there is a moment (actually a few) when I had to stop reading...I was so there, so in the moment, I was crying (and no one would really consider me a cryer)...I had to stop...it was so real and so honest and I was right there with Ere feeling what he was feeling. I could go on and on...but loving this book is NO SYN (pun intended). Get the book, and enjoy figuring out if you where in this world what choice would you make...if you could afford a choice. One final note...this needs to be an audio book and soon...I know I love a book when I need to read it myself and have it read to me. These words deserve to be performed. Can't wait for Book 2 (which has been already been written!!)
I can't remember the last time that I sat down to a book and blazed through it over the course of a weekend. Original Syn can now lay claim to that status. (I was lucky enough to get an ARC.) This is true, character-driven sci-fi, where the concepts are lofty, but the people living in this world are as real and identifiable as can be.
Original Syn takes place in a future that's only a couple of generations removed from present day. Science has advanced to a point where human life can be augmented and extended indefinitely by merging with machines, creating a (seemingly) flawless and immortal new race, the Syns. That is, if you can afford it. This instantly creates a huge class divide between the 1%er Syns, and the Originals - all the humans left behind by this leap in progress. And the future isn't looking great for the Originals. It's a setup that serves, as some of the best sci-fi does, as a modern problem taken to the deep end of the pool - in this case, a worst-case scenario of wealth inequality.
Every chapter is presented from the point of view of the different characters, Original and Syn, giving readers a ton of incredibly well-crafted insight into what makes these people tick. We spend the most time with Ere - a teenage boy who just might be the youngest Original left, and Ever, a Syn girl trapped as a perpetual teenager, and mysteriously connected to the greater workings of Syn society. It would be easy to assume a simple R&J story unfolds from there - and while there's enough of those trappings to put this on the shelf happily in the YA section - the maturity and mystery of the story puts it miles ahead of that basic categorization.
But overall - it's a fun, fast read with a solid cliffhanger ending that ensures I'll be watching for the next book in the series.
Speculative fiction with page-turning action, surprising twists and turns of plot, and a web of relationships among characters that draw you in to this world. Original/Syn connects with issues in science, religion, politics, ethics, and more while delivering a compelling story. It's hard to wait for book two- but I know it will be worth the wait!
In which two horny teenagers will affect the fate of the world...
Beth Kander can definitely write with style and a gift for convincing, human backstories. I loved her way with words throughout, including the plays on words involving Originals (normal, non-enhanced people) and Syns (humans who have synthetic components to help them live forever). Great ideas in the world building, too.
The love story: I never felt any chemistry between the main two characters other than "We're the same age and the girl is hot!" If this is the love story that is eventually going to change this dystopia, I found it unconvincing--more a story about lust than love. Because this love was supposed to be the driving force behind the change that this world will endure, I hoped for a more compelling reason to root for these two.
The other major problem was that Kander's gift for backstory was....overused. Just when I thought the plot was heating up, we would get another over-long chapter detailing every meaningful moment of an apparently tertiary character's childhood. These were long, well-written chapters, but mostly they added nothing discernible to the plot. I affectionately called them "Creative Writing exercise" chapters, because I can see how knowing this about her characters would affect the depth of her portrayals, but I don't think the READER needed to hear all of it.
By the time I realized the whole book was not going to bring any closure but was only setting up a To Be Continued, the two stars were in the bag.
This book is a super fun read! The characters are strong, the world well developed, and the conflict between humans and synthetics well thought out. The author also uses a variety of points of view very effectively to add tension and complexity to the plot. I zoomed through the book pretty quickly. My only complaint is that now I want to know what happens next.
I'm not usually one for YA dystopia stories in my reading list, but this one.... Of course, it's not "just" a YA story or "just" a dystopia either. That's definitely where it will likely be classified, but this book is rather more than those.
Without spoiling the story for future readers, I don't know that I can really go into much detail on what I loved so much. In general terms, characterization, plot, pacing -- all of the things that go into making a great story are done superbly well. Of course, since the author is also an accomplished playwright, I quite expected all of that. You'll also find timely commentary on our current obsessions with science, technology, and the environment, but never done with a heavy hand. Instead, we get multiple sides of each issue told through different characters' viewpoints, with all of their internal biases, foibles, misunderstandings, etc. coloring those views, just as it should be.
And this is why you should become friends with playwrights and other authors: Sometimes you get to read ARCs of their latest works, and then you have to figure out how much you can gush online about the story without ruining it for the next reader.
This is the kind of book where you simultaneously NEED to keep turning the page but you also NEED to slow down so that you can prolong your time being immersed in the story. The expert sci-fi dystopian world building is rich with details, threads of which parallel many social/political issues of our time. The (Chicago based) author combines all of these details within the core story line of a hidden resistance and a Romeo-and-Juliet-esque love story, creating a page-turner that is sure to capture the hearts and minds of teens and adults alike. I was enamored by this book and I cannot believe I have to wait another year for the second in the trilogy!! TLDR: I highly recommend this book!!
Original Syn by Beth Kander: YA science-fiction, dystopian world of synthetically enhanced humans have since their creation some 40 years early been driving Originals (old fashion flesh and blood humans towards extinction). This is the backdrop for a story about a syn girl name Ever who meets an original boy name Ere kind of a Romeo and Juliet meets cyberwar rebellion it was a pretty good page-turner I really enjoyed it for most of the book. There were a number of plot points that I kind of doubted would have played out like they did (Ere escape was too easy and Cal showing up like he did in the end questionable) if this was real but it’s not it’s pure fantasy so why not, right? Well, I’m kind of a stickler for does it make sense so because a few situations were right up against the line of believability I’ll have to take a ½ point away so a four-star read is now 3 and a half stars still a solid story but I was also unaware (not doing my homework) that this was the first in a series. The next is Born in Syn going to have to have a think on it, this was good but was it two more books good, not sure on continuing with it but three ½ stars.
I devoured this book and I can’t wait for the next one! The writing is beautiful and the characters are compelling. What impressed me most about this book was the world building. Too many times in dystopian fiction, the reasons things are the way they are don’t make sense (read: separating people by personality traits or painting them all different colors because they are on Mars). Kander takes the real world problems of inequality and disease and imagined what would happen if one group came up with a solution that was untenable to the rest of the population. What would happen if the rich had the chance to live forever? And would we want to live forever, if we could?
This innovative Sci Fi novel is eerily relevant to today's society, while putting a unique spin on what the future could hold for humanity. The verbiage and descriptions are absolutely gorgeous and the plot line is riveting!
I loved this book from beginning to end. I am not much of a sci-fi or dystopian lover, but this book was more than just a sci-fi dystopian. It examines what it truly means to be human and how valuable our experiences, relationships, and memories are. I formed strong feelings about characters - some good and some bad - but I have a feeling my opinions may change in future installments. The ending left me ready to read book two now, and I imagine it’s going to be quite difficult to wait for Born In Syn. In short, I highly recommend this story to anyone!
I have so many mixed feelings about Original Syn that I'm leaving a review as a result. I want it to be clear from the go that I'm not into the trend in media and fiction perception today that things need to be sanitized to be good. In fact, I don't think this book needs to be sanitized in the least. However, there are parts of it that fail to hold up for me.
After writing out my long list of issues that I had, I find that this book would likely benefit from two things: not trying to fit within the YA dystopian genre and not trying to pay homage to many well-known sci-fi tropes. Whereas Kander has a lot of opportunities to be creative and innovative, she sometimes falls back on tired dystopian tropes regarding humans versus machines, writing misogynistic villains, and not putting enough effort into ensuring that her female characters have just as much - if not more - agency as her male characters. It's obvious to me, at least, that Kander does love the genre that she's writing within, but I personally feel that this love doesn't always serve her here. There are places where I feel she would be better served by departing from well-known tropes, or re-imagining them.
I tried to find reviews from people who didn't read an AR copy of this book, and I struggled. That's part of why I'm leaving a review. I'm also adding - outside of my spoiler text - that despite my many misgivings with regards to this book, I am intending to pick up the next book in the series.
Anyway, I can't say more because it gets into spoilers, so here we go:
I literally read this in one day (I am definitely not a wait-for-more-M&Ms-later kid), and not even the fear of an entire day on zero sleep with a toddler could stop me from devouring this book. As a mother, as a former high school teacher, as a lover of dystopian fiction, and an allaround big ol' nerd who grew up dreaming of marrying Data from Star Trek (I have it written in a Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper from second grade if you need proof), this seems to unite all my favorite things, but still manages to be both terrifying and beautiful as it takes a deep, complex look at what it means to be human. The future that Kander carefully reveals feels so familiar, it's hard not to see it already taking shape, as she has rooted it in ideas, events, places, and even people, who already exist, or may even remind you of yourself or other people you know. And that is truly what sets this apart from other stories of the genre. It doesn't whisk you away to some far off place or time and wow you with fancy new (or old or magical or metaphysical) technologies. It keeps you uncomfortably close to home, and forces you to think about the implications of decisions we may have to make (or allow others to make for us) within our very own lifetimes.
You might ask yourself what a 73 year 0ld man is doing reading this genre of book. Well, I was familiar with the author through her plays (excellent, by the way) and offered to read her new novel and give her some feedback. This certainly is not my normal reading material. When this book arrived, I reluctantly sat two other books aside and began the job of fulfilling my promise to read her book.
WOW, was I in for a surprise! By the second chapter (they are very short chapters, by the way) I was hooked and found it difficult to put the book down to go to bed at night. Several nights I found myself looking up and realizing it was 2 AM. Now, I am a slow reader and always have been so finishing a book in a weekend wasn't going to happen. But, I found this book was just drawing me deeper into the lives of these characters - Ever and Ere, their families, and their totally dissimilar living situations. As we progress, lives change, situations change, motivations change and, as a reader, I became more wrapped up in the events as they unfolded until, at the end...
Once I started this book, I could not put it down. I enjoy Sci-Fi media but often have a hard time connecting emotionally to the story. However, that was not the case with Original Syn. Kander paints the world and its inhabitants with such heart; I was fully invested. The technological "Syn" world created the book feels very immediate despite the futuristic technological advancement (which is where Sci-Fi often loses me). Kander does a great job plotting out the story and setting up characters for a satisfying ending that also left me wanting more. I cannot wait for the next book!!
Original Syn is storytelling at its finest. Kander’s characters are fascinating, complex, and immediately relatable, and the future world they inhabit feels both mythical and tangible. Original Syn is the kind of book that stays with you long after you’ve read its final pages; an unforgettable story that pulls you in and takes you along for the ride.
Though I haven't been a huge sci-fi fan in many years, Original Syn lives up to some of the best classic science fiction I read when that was a mainstay in my reading life. The novel is inventive, has compelling characters, and has a fast-paced plot that is never predictable. Moreover, it explores ideas that are as relevant today as they might be in the imagined not-so-distant future. Kander considers the effect of technology on humanity, as does most great science fiction, by positing an earth where humans have used high tech to integrate themselves with their machines. Though we never get too far into the science of the 'singularity' (anyone who wants to know more can look it up, since it's hardly an invented theory — only the practical application is fiction), we are asked to consider how technology is already informing our reality, for instance through social media and the web. Even more compelling are the ways some of Kander's characters have compromised themselves in the quest for power and her exploration of systematic class and race difference: in the novel, this is mostly seen in the power dynamics between the Syns, who are in power and who have synthesized with technology, and the Originals, who have not and therefore are outcasts subject to eugenics and genocide. Race and class differences as we might understand them are also alluded to by who in American society had access to the technology to become a Syn and by the test subjects who were the beta generation for the Syns and are now second-class citizens. Though violence is always a threat in the police state the Syns have created, this is as much a story of two star-crossed lovers, one Original and one Syn. It will not be giving too much away to say that everything isn't fully resolved in this first volume of the trilogy. Though the ending is satisfying in its own right, Original Syn leaves readers clamoring to read books 2 and 3 in the series: Born in Syn and Syn and Salvation. Fortunately, the third book is due out this month, so we won't have to wait long for the final installment!
What a fantastic book! I admit, I was about 75% finished with it during my lunch break at work and I stayed out for a longer break just so I could finish those last few chapters! The story is unique, the pacing is perfect, the characters are layered, compelling, and sympathetic. I wish the sequel had been published at the same time, I need to know what happens next! I highly recommend this book for any fans of fantasy and sci-fi, but also mystery and adventure novels! I loved it and can't wait for the next section!
I read 330 of the 460 pages and then I finally gave up. Although the story and characters were interesting enough, the book never really hooked me.
I stopped reading because all of the woke tidbits throughout the book became overbearing in the second half. Gays, strong female Indian characters, black characters, mixed race characters, evil rich people, and white Texas bigots became annoying, ridiculous, and distracting.
Fantastic read - if you're a fan of dystopian science fiction, then this is a book you should pick up. I enjoyed the character development and world building in the plot and look forward to reading the next in the trilogy.