Book Review: Genus by Jonathan Trigell
August 9, 2012 20 Comments
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?