Genre & Publication Date: YA Science-Fiction, Feb. 19, 2015 (book one), Aug. 13, 2015 (book two), Oct. 13, 2016 (book three)
Book Description: (From Book One, “The Legacy Human”) “What would you give to live forever? Seventeen-year-old Elijah Brighton wants to become an ascender–a post-Singularity human/machine hybrid–after all, they’re smarter, more enlightened, more compassionate, and above all, achingly beautiful. But Eli is a legacy human, preserved and cherished for his unaltered genetic code, just like the rainforest he paints. When a fugue state possesses him and creates great art, Eli miraculously lands a sponsor for the creative Olympics. If he could just master the fugue, he could take the gold and win the right to ascend, bringing everything he’s yearned for within reach… including his beautiful ascender patron. But once Eli arrives at the Games, he finds the ascenders are playing games of their own. Everything he knows about the ascenders and the legacies they keep starts to unravel… until he’s running for his life and wondering who he truly is.
The Legacy Human is the first in Susan Kaye Quinn’s new young adult science fiction series that explores the intersection of mind, body, and soul in a post-Singularity world… and how technology will challenge us to remember what it means to be human.”
First Line: I want to ascend so badly, I can taste it.
My Take: I’m not sure where to even begin with my review of this series. I could start with how amazing it is, but that doesn’t do it justice. Okay, I’ll put it this way: This is a series that tackles the question of life, the universe, and everything, and let me tell you, the answer is a lot more interesting than 42.
I’ll keep most of this review about book one, “The Legacy Human”, to avoid spoilers but will comment on the sequels as well.
In book one the story takes place on a futuristic Earth in which mankind has found a way to ascend past the confines of the human body to a technologically advanced existence. In other words, memories and personality are streams of data that can be housed in synthetic bodies which are stronger/faster/more beautiful than a normal human body, essentially making the “ascenders” immortal. Ah, but not everyone gets to take the leap. There are still regular flesh and blood humans, dubbed “Legacy” humans (and I just LOVE this term because it makes me think of how outdated computer programs are called) who live in specific, rather grungy areas outside of the glittering central neighborhoods where the ascenders live.
Written in the first-person POV, we enter this world through Elijah Brighton–Eli. I really liked this kid. He’s compassionate, self-deprecating (always a win in my book), and so loyal. He’s also insecure, indecisive, and needs to be shoved in the right direction at times. Thankfully he has his best friend Cyrus to help him out there, an awesome side character who I adored.
Eli’s mom is dying of cancer. Ascender technology could save her life but it’s outlawed to use it on Legacy humans because it would alter their genetic make-up, and the ascenders want to keep Legacy genes pure…unless you win the gold at the Olympics. Do that and you and your family can ascend. Thus Eli decides to participate to get his mom a cure and reach his dream of ascending. Oh, and these Olympics? Yeah, they’re no longer sports oriented since ascenders wouldn’t find physical feats interesting anymore. These Olympics revolve around the arts–music, dance, story/language, and art. Gah, how I WISH we had such a thing in real life! Don’t get me wrong, I love sports–Hey, I was on the Varsity team in high school, placed at the top of state and conference championships–but wouldn’t it be great if we had Olympics in the arts as well?? *wistful sigh*
So obviously, this is all amazing world-building with cool advanced tech and a race of human/non-humans that makes you wonder what’s really going on behind the scenes. We’ve got Eli striving to win the Olympics, navigate the murky politics of the games, and save his mother’s life. Not to mention the mystery of Eli’s fugue state where he gets visions and wakes up to having painted a masterpiece with no idea how to reproduce it.
All of that would be enough for an incredible story, but here’s the thing: the author takes it all one step further. What really gets me, and what makes this a five star review, is the second level to this plot, the philosophical questions around existentialism and spirituality it poses. The question of perpetuity versus immortality. The pondering of the nature of the soul. Does it exist? What does it mean if it does? These questions and more thread through each book in the series alongside the action and adventure. The best part? The author doesn’t cram her perspective down your gullet. There is no preaching here. She answers questions within the story and still leaves you wondering at the grander ideas. It’s a delicate dance expertly done–one that makes me think she herself deserves a gold medal in the Olympics of Eli’s world. Working with such immense themes while integrating them into an engaging Sci-Fi story in an incredibly complex futuristic world? A daunting task to say the least, one that requires a gutsy writer to accomplish and send into the world. It can’t have been easy but, wow, what a sensational result. *stands up to clap enthusiastically*
The Magical: Eli’s fugue state is trippy. So otherworldly. So abstract. So fun to read! And there’s Dutch in this book!! My Dutch husband was quite pleased to see his language (written correctly) in a Sci-Fi book. Thank goodness Eli didn’t run into Peter Rubens in his fugue or interpreting the guy’s painting might’ve gotten awkward…
The Mundane: There’s a bit of romance in the book and while I love Kamali (LOVE Kamali!) I’m not sure I felt the romantic connection with Eli so much. Definitely a bond though. Regardless, it didn’t detract from anything. This story is about so much more than romance. And that family love between Eli and Cyrus, and Eli and his mother, that hit the center of the bullseye. Beautiful.
Summary of Thoughts: “The Legacy Human” is currently $0.99 on the Kindle and it’s also on Kindle Unlimited. Seriously, less than a buck for an amazing story! It’s going to be a five book series–not that the plot is being stretched. It needs the space to do it justice. And while the Olympics in book one has that cool games/trials/competition feel to it, the books following it lose no momentum like other series I’ve read do when they leave the arena. Eli’s journey continues to expand as we learn more about him, his development a fascinating path to follow, and all the while themes around the nature of existence and soul leave you contemplating humanity, divinity, and what it means to be alive. There it is folks, I’ve flat run out of adjectives to convince you to read this one. It’s a chef d’oeuvre. Really.
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