by Beth Revis
Publisher: Scripturient Books
Reading level: NA
Book type: prose novel
The future world is at peace.
Ella Shepherd has dedicated her life to using her unique gift--the ability to enter people's dreams and memories using technology developed by her mother--to help others relive their happy memories.
But not all is at it seems.
Ella starts seeing impossible things--images of her dead father, warnings of who she cannot trust. Her government recruits her to spy on a rebel group, using her ability to experience--and influence--the memories of traitors. But the leader of the rebels claims they used to be in love--even though Ella's never met him before in her life. Which can only mean one thing...
Someone's altered her memory.
Ella's gift is enough to overthrow a corrupt government or crush a growing rebel group. She is the key to stopping a war she didn't even know was happening. But if someone else has been inside Ella's head, she cannot trust her own memories, thoughts, or feelings.
So who can she trust?
(synopsis from Goodreads)
How can a book with a cover so lovely be so bad? I don't know... but The Body Electric tried really hard to be my first dead-ladybug review of the year. Luckily for the book, I don't have much of a tolerance at the moment for books that make me want to throw them through the drywall. So this'll just have to be a plain ol' DNF.
At first, I was intrigued by the setting. The Body Electric is set in 23rd-century Malta, after some sort of (global?) conflict called the Secessionary War. Everything seems shiny and peaceful and wonderful, except for the fact that Ella's father is dead and her mother is dying. But there are clues that Ella's not really living in a utopian paradise; some aspects of her society are downright dystopian. Everybody's walking around filled with nanobots, despite the fact that it was discovered years earlier that too many can literally melt your brain; for some reason that Ella never explains, they're still used liberally in the population, as if they're as safe as water. After high school, kids are assigned to a year of service, whether it's interning (like Ella) or going into the military (like Ella's best friend, Akilah); there doesn't appear to be a choice, which makes Ella come off like a spoiled little twit when she judges someone else to be a loser for defecting from his military service, while she gets to go to her cushy intern job in her mother's spa.
Speaking of Ella, she's not a very interesting character. I know little about her, except that she's Mediterranean-looking and landed a pretty easy intern assignment. She's got a best friend who lives on the moon. Her father died in some sort of terrorist attack. Her mother's dying from Hebb's Disease, a new illness that's possibly due to some universal cancer vaccine that was developed at around the same time the disease showed up. She really dislikes androids, to the point where she thinks they shouldn't even have names (good luck trying to command a robot to do anything if it doesn't know you're talking to it). That's all fine and good. But who is Ella? I have no idea. Granted, I didn't get very far into the book... but I want to know the characters I'm going to be spending so much time with. After 33 pages, is that too much to ask?
The science is also rather silly, and much of it seems to be stuck in there just because the author thought it sounded cool. Unfortunately, much of it is glossed over and there's no real explanation for how these things actually work. Just saying they inject nanobots into everyone to cure everything from astigmatism to chicken pox doesn't really tell me anything. How do they work? What do they do? Why doesn't the body reject all those foreign objects floating around? The same thing goes for the reveries that Ella's mother sells at the spa. Ella says they're expensive to create. Why? She then goes on to say that a reverie is created with the combination of a drug, an electrical current, and a person's own memories. Why would that be expensive? I don't mind tech-speak in books (especially in science fiction), but if something is going to play an important role in the story (like the nanobots and the reveries), I want more explanation.
But my main issue with this book is continuity. You know that scene in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and her friends have arrived in the Emerald City and are riding in the carriage? Every time the scene changes, the horse pulling the carriage is a different colour. That's what I felt I was reading here. Ella contradicts herself over and over again, nullifying or altering what she just said a few paragraphs earlier. She talks about noticing -- for the first time -- the empty space on her father's memorial plaque when she visits the groveyard (no, that's not a typo... that's what she calls it), despite the fact that she was the one who made all the funeral arrangements. Then the plaque (which usually denotes something made of metal) is suddenly a stone marker. As she fights off an attacker in the park, she bashes him in the nose and splits his lip... and then comments on the bruise on his cheek. It was as if the author couldn't remember from one moment to the next what she'd already written... and while this is a book about memories, I sort of doubt that all of these things were intentional.
So, in the final analysis, the reasons why I didn't finish The Body Electric are as follows:
- weak writing
- cardboard main character
- silly science
- continuity issues