Book Review: Genus by Jonathan Trigell

Genus by Jonathan TrigellSay: “This book is a dystopian novel for adults” and I say: “Sold!”. Well, not strictly in all cases, but I am a fan and this book sounded just the sort of thing that I would enjoy. And so I did.

Jonathan Trigell also wrote Boy A, a book I’ve heard of but haven’t read. Obviously, after reading and loving Genus, it’s now a must-read.

Genus: What it is about

From the publisher’s website: “In the Britain of a few tomorrows time, physical perfection is commonplace and self improvement has become an extinct expression: all the qualities men and women could aspire to can be purchased prior to birth.

GENUS is a time of genetic selection and enrichment – life chances come on a sliding scale according to wealth. For some there is no money or choice, and an underclass has evolved; London’s King’s Cross, or The Kross as it is now known, has become a ghetto for the Unimproved. In The Kross, the natural, the dated, the cheap and the dull, live a brittle and unenviable existence. But unrest is growing; tension is mounting and a murderer is abroad in these dark quarters…

Acclaimed author Jonathan Trigell’s third novel is a breathtaking tour de force, exploring a dystopia of the not-too-distant-a future which will leave readers wondering not ‘what if’, as the original audience of Huxley’s Brave New World did, but ‘when’.”

Genus: What I thought

You know I love dystopian fiction and this book is no exception. While I would not necessarily call it strictly dystopian, it’s futuristic, bleak, clever, and scary.

We follow misshapen Holman, a poor artist living in The Kross where he scrapes a living (mainly by begging from his very rich and beautiful mother, a former model). His life isn’t easy and it doesn’t help that people start dying around him. Not just anyone, but people he knows and deals with regularly. His artwork gets destroyed in a riot and he relies on synth (an alcoholic drink) to get through the day. Soon he’s a suspect in the murder cases and he leaves home to hide at a friend’s house.

We also follow a policeman called Gunt, who is the most despicable person you can think of, but who does manage to solve the murder mystery. He is the most beautiful person you can imagine, and obviously an Improved person, on a quest to arrest and put away as many Unimproved as he can manage.

This book is very well written, definitely literary fiction, but not in a forced, difficult way. It’s very readable but you have to keep your mind with it. Skim one or two sentences and you may have missed something important.

I liked the way each chapter was about a certain person. Holman featured most, but other characters, such as Gunt, as well as minor characters (who had maybe just one chapter each) were featured. At first it is not quite clear how they fit in the story, but in the end, it all comes together.

Sometimes there are chapters in which each character is only briefly mentioned, not always by name. For instance, the text refers to a “heavy-set man with a pale upper lip”, and you think “who’s that?”, then you read that he has a dog, and you think, “Ah, that’s Quigley, the man with the mustache who was on the run. He must have shaved it off to be less obvious.” That makes the book extra fun to read, these little puzzles, that are not hard to solve, but take a little bit of thinking.

The Kross is where most of the book takes part and is almost a character itself. It’s a bleak place, rife with vandalism and dirt everywhere. This is very much an urban novel.

This story in a future England discusses beauty and class struggles (where the lower class are the genetically unimproved) and is scarily believable. A wonderful read for anyone who loves dystopian-type literature.

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

Number of pages: 278

First published: 2011

I got this book: from the publishers for review

Genre: speculative fiction, science fiction, dystopian fiction

Have you read this book?

Did you enjoy it?

About Judith
I'm owner and editor at and We edit books and articles for independent writers.

20 Responses to Book Review: Genus by Jonathan Trigell

  1. Tesney Ap says:

    Wow what a rave review! It get me exciting immediately.

  2. Susanna P says:

    Adding this to my wishlist! My problem with adult sci-fi is that it tends to also be part of the thriller genre (not my cup of tea), but this looks like nothing of the sort. The little puzzles embedded in the story seem cool, too.

    Thanks for the review!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Susanna, this is definitely not a thriller – there is an element of mystery as the murders need to be solved but there is much more going on in this book.

  3. Marie says:

    Ok, so this has gone straight on my wishlist – it sounds great. I love when authors let you fill in the gaps yourself rather than explicitly stating every single thing that happens, like with the ‘puzzles’ you mention here. Thanks for drawing this one to my attention!

  4. bibliosue says:

    I’m not much of a dystopia fan, but I do like the premise of this book. I’ll just have to make sure I read it without distractions.

    • Leeswammes says:

      You might like this, Suzanne, though I can’t guarantee it. I think I may give away a copy (though not my own!) during the Literary Giveaway Blog Hop in October. It’s just the thing for it.

  5. You have completely persuaded me to read more dystopia, Judith. Yesterday I found the list you posted some time ago with dystopian titles, and it turns out I already some of these books, without realising then they were dystopia. I’m adding this book to the list.
    Thanks for your, as always, great review!

  6. Sounds like an awesome book! I’ve never heard of it, much less read it, but now I really want to! 🙂

  7. Leslie says:

    This is the first I’ve heard of this book. It sounds like something I might like since I seem to enjoy an occasional dose of futuristic and bleak.

  8. I’ve got this on my Kindle (random sale purchase I assume). Good to know it’s worth reading.

  9. capriciousreader says:

    Say: “This book is a dystopian novel for adults” and I say: “Sold!”.

    I say the same thing!!! That, and the fact you gave it a 5. 🙂

  10. Pingback: Sunday Caught My Interest « Reflections from the Hinterland

  11. This does sound eerily believable, and the themes do overlap with Boy A, although that was a very different type of novel. Genus was already on my wishlist — after seeing your review and 5/5 rating, I’ll give it high priority. 🙂

  12. Chinoiseries says:

    You had me with the first sentence 🙂 Dystopian for adults! I also think the fact that there is some guessing to do throughout the novel an appealing feature. Must read this soon!

  13. Pingback: Genus- Jonathan Trigell | Lucybird's Book Blog

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