This Mortal Coil
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?
“There is no gene for run like hell”
This Mortal Coil focuses on 17-year-old, Catarina Agatta. She lives in a world in which, when you are born, a panel is embedded into your arm. It allows you to recode your genes, making you fairer, thinner, changing your hair, even healing illnesses.
When a plague arrives, her father is taken by Cartaxus, a government-like organization, along with his protegee Dax, due to his legendary skills in the field, leaving him as the only person able to create a vaccine. Her father insists she stay under Cartaxus’ radar and without him Catarina is forced to survive on her own through the plague- the Hydra.
This Mortal Coil started off alright- after the introduction I slowly began forming a vague image of how technologically advanced they are. How the panel helps Cat enhance her senses and even communicate with others. It’s incredible really. A couple pages in though, we delve into the plague itself and it disgusting side effects.
The infection typically ends with its victim detonating. Literally. They go up in a plume of red mist and a mere whiff of it can infect another. They are not contagious prior however. Quite the opposite actually- they provide immunity. The twist? One must consume the flesh of an infected for a fortnight of immunity. The infected release an odour that turns on a savage instinct in people known as the ‘Wrath’, taking away their humanity for the short time when they succumb to the most inhumane parts of themselves. Some have even completely lost themselves to the Wrath, wandering around as mindless cannibals.
It is unnerving to imagine at first but eventually I got used to it; being a lifestyle for those living in through the plague- those who refused to enter the bunkers Cartaxus offered. The bunkers are haven, where all those uninfected in the early days entered for shelter, the only catch was that non-standard tech was not allowed. No hacks, no non-standard apps, no open-source codes- Cartaxus had to have full control of the panel.
But by that point there were people whose lives relied wholly on non-standard tech, even Catarina herself due to her hypergenesis which means if she installs standard tech, they attack her cells, and she will die. So she is left to use non-standard tech, created for her only by her father. Then Cole arrives and suddenly everything flips, and the entire book takes on a different pace. One could say This Mortal Coil was a thrilling ride. (mostly)
Catarina is a strong female protagonist, stubborn and determined. I enjoyed the world-building, it was unique and different from books I have previously read. Cole, the Cartaxus soldier, knew Cat’s father previously and Cat also discovers crazy pieces of code written by Lachlan in his panel, like the protection protocol, designed to activate when Cat was in danger and eliminate the danger at all costs.
This was intriguing and raised my curiosity; it was clear he was hiding things and although he is the love interest, I saw him mostly as a main character and not just a supporting one, as his character was explored deeply, had depth and of course, purpose. I was completely hooked to This Mortal Coil, I could not stop reading as every chapter twisted and turned leaving me craving for answers. Some scenes were slightly gory- whenever Cat gets hurt particularly.
I did find myself unable to fully connect to either Cat or Cole. They were well-written characters both having their strengths and flaws, supporting each other but nevertheless, I felt disconnected from the book. It did feel odd. I also realised that a lot of coding terms are used (which I managed to recognize having tried it before) which may be confusing for someone unfamiliar with the territory.
Occasionally, I felt the entire chapters jumble up in my head and I had to reread them to clear things out. Otherwise, I did like the concept and direction of This Mortal Coil took- it felt new to me. The plot twists though…I was blown. I never would have guessed it, at all- it was so unpredictable and horrifying at the same time.
This Mortal Coil was a self-discovery, sci-fi journey and Cat through it all was such a strong character that although I couldn’t connect to her as well as I would have like to, I loved her, nonetheless. The futuristic concepts were astounding to imagine, the capabilities they could achieve. We also read the entire experience from Cat’s eyes, btw.
It is a part of a trilogy and is followed by, ‘This Cruel Design’ and ‘This Vicious Cure’. Any sci-fi reader would appreciate this book, it is a whirlwind but satisfying. The ending of This Mortal Coil left me stunned; I will definitely have to read the next book soon.
Recommended: YA, Dystopian Fiction, Sci-Fi
You can purchase This Mortal Coil at:
Check Out My Review For ‘This Cruel Design’, the second book in the trilogy: