Author: Rachel Cohn
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Series: Annex (Book 1)
Publication Date: October 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
ISBN-10: 1423157192 (Disney Hyperion)
ISBN-13: 978-1423157199 (Disney Hyperion)
Reviewed by: Michelle
Elysia is created in a laboratory, born as a sixteen-year-old girl, an empty vessel with no life experience to draw from. She is a Beta, an experimental model of a teenage clone. She was replicated from another teenage girl, who had to die in order for Elysia to exist.
Elysia’s purpose is to serve the inhabitants of Demesne, an island paradise for the wealthiest people on earth. Everything about Demesne is bioengineered for perfection. Even the air induces a strange, euphoric high, which only the island’s workers–soulless clones like Elysia–are immune to.
At first, Elysia’s life is idyllic and pampered. But she soon sees that Demesne’s human residents, who should want for nothing, yearn. But for what, exactly? She also comes to realize that beneath the island’s flawless exterior, there is an under-current of discontent among Demesne’s worker clones. She knows she is soulless and cannot feel and should not care–so why are overpowering sensations cloud-ing Elysia’s mind?
If anyone discovers that Elysia isn’t the unfeeling clone she must pretend to be, she will suffer a fate too terrible to imagine. When her one chance at happi-ness is ripped away with breathtaking cruelty, emotions she’s always had but never understood are unleashed. As rage, terror, and desire threaten to overwhelm her, Elysia must find the will to survive.
Quick & Dirty: An interesting story about clones in a utopian society falls a little short to of my expectations.
Opening Sentence: It’s me she wants to purchase.
Rachel Cohn’s Beta has a gorgeous cover. Even from the ARC (advanced reading copy), it has multiple overlay layers that blend between matte, shiny, and metallic. It’s gorgeous, and so is the cover model. Beta is a dystopian, of sorts. Instead of the government being the main focus, Beta focuses on clones and other laboratory creations. In the case of Beta, a new program has been introduced, and teenagers are the subject. Beta reminds me of older science fiction classics, even similar to the sorts of Frankenstein. So if you’re a fan of SciFi? This could be for you.
Beta follows the life of Elysia, a beta clone. Where clones are usually adults, Dr. Lusardi has started testing out Betas. Clones are without souls, using bodies of humans who have passed on as empty vessels. For the betas like Elysia, the only concern is the teenage hormone factor. It’s unpredictable, as is Elysia herself. Elysia is a slave, focused solely on the duties at hand. She is not meant to have feelings, emotions, or opinions. But in Elysia’s case? She has all of these as well as memories of her former, human self. Problems arise for Elysia, and that is only the beginning of what’s to come.
It was a little difficult getting to know Elysia. Cohn wrote her to be a clone, lacking personality and emotion. Gradually, she learns more and more about herself, her human past, and the realities of life on Demesne. And as naive as Cohn wrote her to be, she seeks answers without any second thought. Her intelligence is pre-programed, her natural abilities from her human life. It was hard to understand who Elysia was once she was stripped of all of that.
There were some great supporting characters and some who were not. But while I didn’t like some, I’ll keep them nameless, to let you form your own opinion. I wanted to know about some of the characters more than others, and I felt that a select few needed less face time. I thought the romance was a little forced, especially given that Elysia just newly discovered feelings. Was it realistic that she fell so hard so quickly? Probably not, but certain events were just hard to take in.
In this utopian society, the island of Demesne is a bubble. A bubble of ignorance and bliss, belonging to the elite and wealthy. Cohn showcased the life of luxury, but also wrote about the ugliness and price of the elite. Everyone on Demesne seemed to only care for one thing, status, and after a while, I was put off. The world within Demesne was intriguing, seeing all of the futuristic details that came into play.
While I was frustrated with some elements of the book, I still enjoyed the story overall. I liked the promise of where the story was going, and hope for better things to come in the next book.
Beneath the water, I can know her. She was fierce, uncompromising. When she loved. she loved deeply, passionately. She loved the blue-eyed water god. She owned him. His heart.
But when she felt betrayal, she hated, and she was feared.
Hate gave her power.
If she were me (and she is me, even if she’s dead), she would not fear my unnatural memories and instincts. She would say, Maybe your unspeakable defects give you power too?
FTC Advisory: Hyperion provided me with a copy of Beta. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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