Sunday, May 25, 2014

Unforgotten by Jessica Brody

Unforgotten picks up Sera and Zen's story after they have transessed to the year 1609 in England to escape her pursuers from Diotech, the organization that is determined to re-capture her. They have found refuge with John and Elizabeth Pattinson and their family, who run a farm. Mrs. Pattinson and the farm animals do not like her, sensing that there is something different about her. Her violet eyes are disturbing to Elizabeth and when she sees the black line tattoo on Sera's wrist, she is certain it is the mark of Satan.

Their cover in 1609 is blown when Sera and Zen take the apple harvest to town and Zen falls deathly ill. He is hit by a wagon and horse in town and Sera uses her special physical abilities of superior strength and speed to save him from being crushed. When the villagers witness this display, they capture Sera, imprison and try her for witchcraft and burn her at the stake. However, as she is being burned to death, Sera is rescued.

When she awakens, Sera discovers that her legs have healed from the burns and that she is being held captive. She meets Kaelen, a genetically designed person just like her, who tells her that he has been sent by Diotech to retrieve information that they need. Kaelen tells Sera that the information is stored in her unaccessed memories known as TDRs or time-delayed recalls. These are memories that were installed in Sera's brain and programmed to activate by a specific trigger.

Not realizing that Kaelen is genetically superior, Sera attempts to escape but it unable to physically overcome Kaelen. Kaelen reveals to Sera that his one purpose is to serve Dr. Jans Alixter and to protect the interests of Diotech. Kaelen has Sera's locket which means she cannot transesse back to 1069 to get Zen. She learns that Kaelen knows what is wrong with Zen and how to save him. Sera agrees to help Kaelen find the information he needs through her memories if he goes back to retrieve Zen. Kaelen does this and brings a desperately ill Zen back to the house where she is being kept.

Kaelen tells Sera that she is now in New York city in the year 2032. Kaelen brought her to this year because this is what her memory dictated. As she and Kaelen experience her first memory, a second memory happens leading them to the next clue. However, Sera is horrified to discover that Kaelen can access her memories with his touch. She manages to conceal the third memory from Kaelen and disables him with the Modifier. Returning to the house, Sera takes Zen and travels to the GenZone Research Laboratory where she meets up with Cody Carlson - the boy she met in 2013. Cody, in 2032, is now a thirty-two year old research scientist, married with a child named Reese.

Using a special technology, Sera allows Cody to learn about how she was created and about the transession gene. Cody discovers that the transession gene is what is making Zen sick. His body is treating it as a virus and attacking it. The gene cannot be removed by any living scientist, but Sera knows who CAN remove it - Dr. Rylan Maxxer who is alive eighty-three years into the future.

Cody further deduces that Maxxer is also on the run from Diotech. Sera believes that Maxxer is the one who implanted a memory of her secret location in Sera's brain and that this location is what Diotech is seeking. Cody suspects the reason Diotech is searching for Dr. Maxxer is because someone else is also ill from the transession gene. When Kaelen reappears, having tracked Sera to Cody's lab, she confronts him with the real reason for his mission - to locate and bring the antidote to the transession gene to Dr. Alixter. Can Sera find Dr. Maxxer in time to save Zen, while outwitting Diotech's Kaelen who is determined to bring the antidote to Alixter?

Unforgotten is a much more interesting novel than its predecessor, Unremembered. Brody does several things in this novel; she furthers our understanding of the web of intrigue that Sera and Zen are caught in, she continues to develop her characters and she creates a bridge into the final novel of the series.

Brody builds the science in her world from 2013 onwards. This is filled in by the character of Dr. Maxxer who has to explain to Seraphina why she had fled her time and how she has transessed through various time periods to determine exactly what is going on. It turns out that a mysterious group of influential people known as the Providence has been in control of global politics and economics for decades. Genetic manipulation begun in the early 21st century will continue until people rise up against it. In 2032, an outbreak of white fever will be released by Providence. It is a dangerous virus capable of wiping out humanity, but the Providence will not allow that. Instead, they will provide a vaccine which will cure white fever but genetically modify everyone, making them susceptible to other less serious ailments. This will enable the pharmaceutical companies to sell more drugs and vaccines. However, when people begin rebelling against the pharmaceutical companies, the Providence will decide on a different tactic. They invest in an unknown start-up biotech company known as Diotech. Diotech is moved to a remote location and the Genesis Project is developed to create perfect human beings such as Sera and Kaelen. This technology will be marketed to people as a way to be smarter, younger, more beautiful, but it will come with an unknown effect. Nanotechnology will be used to control people, programming them to respond in certain ways and allowing a group of people to control all of humanity.

This is an interesting concept that takes in the current debate about vaccines, biotechnology, nanotechnology and genetic manipulation. How far should scientists go when it comes to genetic engineering? Can vaccines be used to fundamentally change the human body? Just because we can do certain things in the field of medicine, does this mean we ought to? Brody plays to our deepest fears and suspicions about modern science - that it might be used not for good but as a weapon against humanity.

Another dominant theme is that of identity as Sera struggles to come to terms with the fact that she was created as a selling point for new biotechnology. This new technology has the potential to do great evil. Sera is angry that she never had a choice in how she was created or how she is able to live her life. Instead, every aspect of her life seems to be predetermined by genetic manipulation including who she is attracted to. This makes Sera convinced that she must destroy Diotech before they can implement their plan.

Overall, Unforgotten is a good read, well paced with a strong, linear storyline. Brody fills in her future world enough to move the plot along and create a crisis that extends into the final novel. Fans of Scott Westerfeld's, Uglies, and Mary Pearson's, Adoration of Jenna Fox, will enjoy this series.

The third book in the Unremembered series will be published in 2015.

Book Details:
Unforgotten by Jessica Brody
New York: Farrar Straus Giroux    2014
399 pp.

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