Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Enders by Lissa Price

Enders is the sequel to Lissa Price's debut novel, Starters.

The backstory:

 As a result of a biochemical war, America is comprised of very elderly people, Enders, who rent out the bodies of young people who are called Starters through a company called Prime Destinations. When Callie Woodland decides to become a donor to make money to save her sickly brother, Tyler, she discovers that the mind-body transfer is not an innocent as it seems. Some Enders want to retain the bodies they take over. The government also wants to use the Starters for its own agenda. Callie discovers that Prime Destinations, run by an Ender known as the Old Man has an even more terrible use for the Starters.

Although the Old Man escapes their attempts to capture him, Prime Directions is destroyed and the missing teens recovered, including Callie's brother, Tyler. Meanwhile the teen she'd fallen in love with while being a rental, Blake, does not respond to her messages, so Callie decides to go see him. She discovers that Blake does not know her because he was being rented by the Old Man. Senator Harrison reveals this to Callie and asks her to never reveal to Blake what happened to him.

Callie learns that Blake was kidnapped by the Old Man to force Senator Harrison to push the deal between Prime and the government. Helena used Callie's body to try to kill Harrison so that she could expose the deal and how the body bank would be used for evil. To accomplish this, Callie's chip was altered to turn of the stop-kill switch. The Old Man used Blake's body to monitor both Helena's actions and to see how Callie adapted to the changes. The ability to communicate between Helena and Callie meant that the Old Man now had a very valuable commodity to sell to the government. The novel closes with the Old Man speaking to Callie through her chip and inviting her to join him. He tells her he is the "good guy." But the Old Man is not the only one who can "talk" to Callie. She also hears the voice of her dead father, leaving her confused and frightened.


Despite taking down Prime Destinations, the Old Man lives on. He can talk to Callie via the chip in the back of her head. "It was like a phone the Old Man could call anytime, a phone I had to answer and could never disconnect. It was the Old Man's direct line to me, Callie Woodland."

Callie now lives in the home of  the Ender, Helena, who had rented her and had used her body to try to assassinate Senator Harrison in order to stop the Old Man. Her younger brother, Tyler, now fully recovered, and a friend, Michael live in the guest house. Tyler tells Callie that he and Michael are going to get him new shoes at the mall.

Callie agrees to meet them at the mall after she takes sandwiches to the starving Starters in an old office building that had been home for Michael, Tyler and Florina when Callie was being rented out. When she arrives at the building, the sandwiches are stolen from her by a young Starter.

Her mission to feed the Starters a failure, Callie arrives early at the mall and heads to the food court where she's to meet Michael and Tyler. Suddenly Callie begins hearing the Old Man's voice in her head. The Old Man directs Callie's attention to a Starter that Callie knew, named Reece. Callie's guardian, Lauren, had rented Reece's body to search for her grandson. Callie knows Reece doesn't know her but she attempts to get her attention since she sees that Reece is being followed by an Ender with a silver animal tattoo. Reece, not recognizing Callie, walks away and in an attempt to flee the Ender, runs towards the shoe store where Michael and Tyler are shopping. She never makes, exploding before reaching the store, as Callie is taken down and protected by a dark-haired Starter with piercing eyes. The Old Man tells Callie that although she destroyed the body bank and Prime, he has other facilities and can still access any chip. He can turn these into weapons just as he did with Reece.

Callie contacts Senator Bohn who helped her take down Prime Destinations with an idea of how to track down the Old Man. After contacting her guardian, Lauren, Callie goes to meet Blake, the Senator Harrison's grandson, who has been attempting to contact her. Callie decides to reveal to Blake about the chip implants, how he was kidnapped and implanted and that his body was used by the head of Prime, the Old Man. She explains that the Old Man has an electronic mask and an artificial voice to disguise himself. Callie warns Blake to avoid the Old Man and to ask his grandfather about what really happened to him.

Callie, Senator Bohn who is in charge of the Congressional investigation of Prime Destinations, and Lauren are unsuccessful in their attempt to access the computers at Institution 37, where Callie was once imprisoned. The Old Man once again contacts Callie via her chip and warns her that if she does not cooperate he will harm Michael and her brother Tyler.  He also reveals that Tyler has been implanted with a chip.The Old Man instructs Callie to drive to an unknown location but she never makes it. Instead she is kidnapped by the Starter who saved Callie in the mall explosion. The Starter reveals himself as Hyden, the son of the Old Man. Callie deduces that the Old Man must be a Middle, one of the rare middle aged who survived due to vaccination. Hyden's specially designed SUV blocks access to her chip, providing a place to be safe.

Callie learns that she is the only Metal (a Starter who has a chip implanted) whose chip has been altered so that she can kill when someone is inside her head. She is also able to retain her self-awareness, unlike other Metals who have no idea what happens to them when they are being used. Hyden tells Callie that both he and his father, whose name is Brockman, developed the mind-body transfer technology but while he wanted to use it for good, his father was only intent upon selling the technology to the highest foreign bidder.

Hyden informs Callie that access to the Metal's chips can be prevented at either high altitudes or if they go far enough underground.  To that end, Hyden arranges for Michael and Callie's brother, Tyler to be taken to his private mountain chalet where they cannot be tracked by his father. At the same time, he takes Callie to his secret lab which is located underground. There she finds Redmond, an Ender who had altered her chip in the first novel and who helped her.

Callie wants the chip removed from her head but Hyden tells her it is not possible and that all attempts to remove the chip have met with failure. After experiencing another of Helena's memories in her head, Callie tells Hyden that they should find as many of the other Metals as possible and bring them back to his lab so that Brockman will not be able to capture and sell them.

Using a scanner, Callie, Hyden and his bodyguard, Ernie (a Middle), begin locating and picking up Metals. Soon they have many Metals with various skills living in a dorm in the lab complex, helping out making meals, cleaning and doing repairs. During this time Callie learns that Hyden has suffered nerve damage as a result of an accident and cannot bear to be touched. The mind-body transfer technology was something he hoped would help him. It is because of this pain that after taking in one of the Metals, Hyden transfers into the other boy's body, revealing to Callie that he too has a chip.

Soon after this, Michael contacts Callie and she and Hyden to  pick him up. However, while looking for Michael, Callie hears her father's voice in her head. Although Hyden insists that the voice she heard was not her father but was  in fact his father, Callie holds hope that he might still be alive. In order to find out, Callie and Hyden go to the Hall of Records and learn that he is dead. At the Hall, Brockman contacts Callie and Hyden fights off a hijacked Metal, he demonstrates to Callie that he is learning how to control her body by moving her pinky move. They manage to cut off Brockman and recover the Metal, taking her to Hyden's lab.

Hyden's lab is attacked and the Metals are all captured except for Hyden, Callie and Michael. Ernie and Redmond are also spared. They learn from a dying Ender that Brockman was responsible for the attack and that he is planning to sell the Metals to the richest Enders in the world, in ten days time. Can Callie rescue the Metals from a terrible fate and stop Brockman in his quest to own the technology and sell it to the highest bidder?


Enders is an fitting conclusion to Lissa Price's first novel, Starters, neatly tying up all the loose ends from the first novel. Callie, who brought down Prime Directions in the first novel, is determined to find a way to rid herself of the chip and get away from the Old Man. But as she discovers more about herself and the two men who designed the mind-body transfer technology, it becomes apparent that she has to stop him from selling the technology to other governments who will have no qualms about using it against America.

Although not as interesting as Starters, Enders strong point is the revelations at the end of the novel. Price does a great job holding her reader's interest, gradually revealing more of the backstory behind Hyden and Brockman, developing the mystery surrounding her father and utilizing many plot twists in the final chapters. However, readers will be somewhat disappointed at how quickly the resolution to the novel occurs. Callie gaining control of her chip simply happens, just like that, diffusing the climax to the story and creating a feeling of the novel rushing to quickly to its resolution.

Enders is somewhat weak on characterization as the story is driven by the action in the novel. There's no real depth to the characters, except for Callie who is presented as a girl just wishing for a normal life with her brother Tyler but who comes to realize that she needs to keep fighting for those who have been implanted with this technology against their will. Michael who was a significant character in Starters, is a minor character in this novel. Callie's romantic relationship with Hyden seems bizarre given his lies and manipulation of just about everyone around him. Callie seemed to completely forget the relationship she had with Michael.

Price only touches on the implications of biotechnology for individuals and society in a superficial way near the end of novel when Callie is taken over by a creepy Ender. Although what he makes her do is vividly described, the reader doesn't get a sense of what Callie's feeling as she loses her ability to control her actions in front of a gallery of old men,  because she doesn't tell us. This was a great opportunity for Price to demonstrate how such technology impacts bodily autonomy and the integrity of human beings if they are controlled by others.

I'm puzzled as to why Price titled this novel Enders, since most of the story does not directly involve Enders, except at the conclusion of the novel when it is the Enders who are the ones interested in the Metals. It isn't even an Ender who is the villain in the novel, but a Middle. And it is Metals who are the prime focus of the novel. As a result, it would have been more accurate to have titled  the novel Metals. I also wish that Price had stuck with the original cover design which was rather cool the circuitry and the silver and blue colour theme.

Overall though, Enders is a good conclusion to a duology with a very unique and interesting premise. These novels will appeal to those who enjoyed The Adoration of Jenna Fox and Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series which also explore the impact of biotechnology on human identity.

Book Details:
Enders by Lissa Price
New York: Ember, an imprint of Random House    2014
272 pp.

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