Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful
Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful
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Annotation: Six interconnected stories that ask how far we will go to remake ourselves into the perfect human specimens, and how hard that will push the definition of human.
Catalog Number: #167658
Format: Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Random House
Copyright Date: 2018
Edition Date: 2018
Pages: 372 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 0-525-58095-6
ISBN 13: 978-0-525-58095-9
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2018022928
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
Horn Book
How will genetic modification integrate itself into society going forward? This collection of six interconnected stories, each one set slightly further into the future than the last, imagines teenagers facing different stages of technological advancement and the subsequent questions it raises regarding what it means to love, fear, learn, and be human. The stories cohere into a thoughtful dystopian novel examining technology and the human experience.
Kirkus Reviews
Six interwoven stories, each set farther out in time, envision the human future: fantastic but recognizable—maybe inevitable.In the near future, Evan, 15, a semi-identical twin, struggles to accept that his life depends on organs harvested from his beloved sister's failing body. A few years later, Milla, 16, conceals the extent to which her body was rebuilt after a car accident, acutely aware of prejudice against those who've undergone such procedures, until a disastrous first date with her longtime crush who's heard the Rev. Tadd's radio harangues against altering the human body, even to save lives. Years later, the charismatic religious zealot undergoes a startling change of heart. As genetic manipulation accelerates beyond cosmetic enhancements and lifesaving surgeries, animal and plant genes are modified, then used to modify human beings. Limbs can be added and the mortally ill frozen until their ailments are curable. For-profit enterprises, in the U.S. especially, compete in a laissez-faire free-for-all. Russia and countries behind the "Genetic Curtain" prohibit tampering with human DNA, instead transforming a burgeoning convict population into cyborgs who endure painfully inhumane conditions. While institutions worldwide, public and private, ignore ethical dilemmas, several vivid characters prove capable of heroism and generosity. Final story excepted, most major human characters appear white.Imaginative and incisive, this asks readers to ponder what makes us human and if we'll know when we've crossed the line, becoming something else. (author's note) (Science fiction.14-adult)
Publishers Weekly
These six linked tales delve into the question of ethics in scientific and medical human modification. Along the way, they loosely follow the life, career, and afterlife of Tad Tadd, a reverend who popularizes a movement against changing corporeal forms and then, after a family tragedy, wholeheartedly embraces people-s right to modify their bodies as they choose. The book begins with semi-identical twins Julia and Evan, whose organs are not growing fast enough to keep either alive; when Julia goes into a vegetative state, doctors advise the twins- parents to harvest Julia-s organs for Evan, and Tadd pays a visit to the family in the hospital, calling the boy -a life-devouring creature.- Another section follows a teen, significantly modified following a car accident, who hears Tadd-s message on the radio. As the stories move further into the future, Dayton (Seeker) explores how each generation slowly blurs the lines between human, machine, and animal. Part cautionary tale and part ode to the inventive human spirit, Dayton-s brilliant collection of stories is best described as a scientific Twilight Zone. Ages 14-up. Agent: Jodi Reamer, Writers House. (Dec.)
School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 9 Up This collection of six short science fiction stories is wonderfully imaginative and disturbingly taps into a future that is very possible. Each of the entries explores a conceivable application of human gene editing or body modification. With every subsequent vignette set a little further in time than the last, the collection as a whole paints a future history of humankind. The stories are loosely connected by elements of an evangelical religion that forms around body modification, the zealous founder of which is the only common character throughout. In the style of Netflix's Black Mirror , Dayton uses fiction to ask powerful and intriguing questions about the possibilities of real advancements in genetic science. What are the ethics of organ transplantation? What if the parents of "designer babies" aren't happy with the product? How could genetic modifications create a class system and affect a dangerous power imbalance? Who gets to make the choices? The author expertly creates a vivid world and fleshed-out characters. She adeptly moves from a tale about a sibling relationship to another about awkward teenage embarrassment and revenge and to the life of a merboy genius, and finally to a star-crossed romance set in a futuristic society that is untouched by genetic enhancements. The writing and the plotting are consistent across the collection. VERDICT Compelling and terrifying, this volume is science fiction at its finest. Recommended for first purchase. Liz Overberg, Zionsville Community High School, IN
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
Six interwoven stories, each set farther out in time, envision the human future: fantastic but recognizable—maybe inevitable.In the near future, Evan, 15, a semi-identical twin, struggles to accept that his life depends on organs harvested from his beloved sister's failing body. A few years later, Milla, 16, conceals the extent to which her body was rebuilt after a car accident, acutely aware of prejudice against those who've undergone such procedures, until a disastrous first date with her longtime crush who's heard the Rev. Tadd's radio harangues against altering the human body, even to save lives. Years later, the charismatic religious zealot undergoes a startling change of heart. As genetic manipulation accelerates beyond cosmetic enhancements and lifesaving surgeries, animal and plant genes are modified, then used to modify human beings. Limbs can be added and the mortally ill frozen until their ailments are curable. For-profit enterprises, in the U.S. especially, compete in a laissez-faire free-for-all. Russia and countries behind the "Genetic Curtain" prohibit tampering with human DNA, instead transforming a burgeoning convict population into cyborgs who endure painfully inhumane conditions. While institutions worldwide, public and private, ignore ethical dilemmas, several vivid characters prove capable of heroism and generosity. Final story excepted, most major human characters appear white.Imaginative and incisive, this asks readers to ponder what makes us human and if we'll know when we've crossed the line, becoming something else. (author's note) (Science fiction.14-adult)
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* Six stories meld perfectly together into one complex, eerily plausible narrative in Dayton's newest novel. The book thoroughly integrates scientific advancements of the present and explores the achievements d horrors ssible in the future if these advancements are built upon. In this sf world, humans are obsessed with perfection and becoming more of everything: stronger, faster, more intelligent, longer-lived, more beautiful, more resilient. Dayton allows humanity to accomplish such feats in her collection of stories, but the results aren't the picture-perfect image most would imagine. Just as the pursuit of power can lead to malfeasance, the pursuit of perfection can foster corruption. Dhonielle Clayton explores similar themes in her fantasy novel The Belles (2018), looking at the importance of perfection through the lens of beauty in a world where people have unchecked means of remaking their physical selves. Dayton takes this a step further as she paints a gut-wrenching future where people use unlimited power to alter literally any and everything about themselves. This speculative, thought-provoking novel will take readers on a frightening, remarkable journey through humanity's past, present, and possible future.
Word Count: 86,581
Reading Level: 6.2
Interest Level: 9-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 6.2 / points: 14.0 / quiz: 505379 / grade: Upper Grades
Lexile: 870L
Guided Reading Level: L

Human!

 

Stop!

 

. . . is what I'm thinking. As if I've already become something else, a different species, and I'm tired of hearing all of his worn-out, human-person logic.

 

The man is reminding me that Julia's heart will be combined with my own heart, so it's not like I'm "taking" hers. It's a synthesis. The new heart will fuse both in a way that's better than either of the originals. A super-heart, I guess you could call it.

 

He is reminding me of this, and every time I say "But--" he cuts me off by continuing his explanation, only more loudly. Now he's almost yelling, though he's just as cheerful as he always is.

 

Did I mention that he's my father? And he's only repeating what my doctor has explained so many times. Although, let's be honest, my doctor explains the same things very differently. She discusses recovery rates and reasonable percentages and acceptable outcomes. She tells me about other patients, though of course, my case and Julia's case--the case of Evan and Julia Weary, semi-identical twins--is unique, so we are, as she likes to say, "medical pioneers." I've come to think of us as the season-finale episode of a show about strange medical cases. Tune in for the outrageous conclusion!

 

I'm in my hospital room, but I'm sitting in a chair in the corner, because it's dangerous to stay in the hospital bed, which can be wheeled away for CAT scans or blood draws or surgery, or whatever, so easily. You have the illusion of control if you're sitting in a chair.

 

Julia is in the adjoining room. She's on the bed, of course. And though I can hear our mother in there with her, she's only saying a few quiet words to my sister, and my sister is not saying anything in reply.

 

"This is fortune smiling on us, Evan," my father says, using what has become one of his favorite phrases. He looms over me, because I'm sitting down while he's standing and also because he's six foot five. "Years from now, you're going to look back on these weeks and wonder why you ever hesitated. Julia would want her heart and yours to be joined."

 

Whenever he senses me becoming skeptical about what we're going to do, my father finds a new angle to convince me. This is the new angle for today: Julia's fondest wish is for our twin hearts to become one.

 

"But I'm the only one who will get to use the heart," I tell him. "It's not like we're turning into one person and sharing it. I get the heart. She gets nothing."

 

He raises his voice another notch as he says, "Would you rather put hers in the ground? Alone and cold? To rot?" Even he can hear the hysteria that has snuck into his argument. He lowers the volume to something like normal conversational level and adds, "You know she wouldn't want that. She does get something. She gets you, alive."

 

"I'm the one who gets that!"

 

"She gets it too, Evan."

 

I hope that's true.

 

"You sound out of breath," my father says. "How about we keep our voices calm?"

 

This is an infuriating suggestion since he's the one who's not calm, but his observation is accurate; I'm having trouble catching my breath. I concentrate on forcing air in and out of my chest.

 

I notice that we're only talking about Julia's heart, even though she'll give me so much more--her liver, part of her large intestine, her kidneys, even her pancreas. It's too depressing to keep mentioning all the pieces of both of us that aren't working right, so my parents and I have begun using the heart as a stand-in for everything.

 

I look up at him wearily. "Dad, why do we keep talking about it, anyway? You already decided."

 

"You decided too, Evan."

 

I sigh, and though I try to sound as angry as possible, he's right. I did decide.

 

 

 

When the nurses show up to do tests, my father leaves. He doesn't like to stick around for the nitty-gritty, which used to annoy me but now is a relief. If my father is present, he considers it an obligation to insert as many positive comments as possible into whatever uncomfortable hospital procedure is happening. It's not ideal to have to make appreciative noises about the weather and baseball scores when a male nurse is putting a catheter into your penis, for example.

 

With my father gone, I hardly have to say anything.

 

Nurse: "Does that hurt?"

 

Me: "A little."

 

Nurse: "Is this better?"

 

Me: "A little."

 

Nurse: "Can you roll over onto your back now?"

 

I don't even have to answer that. I just have to do it.

 

 

 

Later, I'm left alone in my hospital room. This is the last day. It will happen in the morning. Julia and I have just barely made it to our fifteenth birthday. And now comes . . . whatever is next.

 

I am not immune to daydreams. I imagine slipping on my clothes, walking out of the hospital, and asking my mother to bring me somewhere peaceful to die. My favorite fantasy locations are on a beach overlooking Lake Michigan, or on the moon base, while staring up at the small blue face of Earth. Yes, I know there isn't any moon base, but I'm not sneaking out of the hospital either.

 

The daydreams are tempting, but here's the truth of it: death sucks more than life, almost no matter what. There. I've admitted it. I want to live. Blech. It feels wrong.

 

I get off my hospital bed and go into the connecting room, Julia's. My heart races as soon as I'm on my feet, but if I move slowly, I can keep it from getting out of hand. Julia's room is kept nice and quiet and mostly dark, though it's still daytime, so cloudy light comes in through the slatted blinds over the window. Her ventilator hisses and clicks. Her bed is surrounded by IV stands that are providing her food, her water, her drugs. Dripping, dripping, dripping away.

 

"Hey," I say, out of breath when I reach the edge of her bed.

 

Hey, she says. Not out loud, of course. But I know she says it.



Excerpted from Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

“If you love Black Mirror, this…will send shivers down your spine.”—Teen Vogue

"Appealing to fans of Black Mirror and Westworld, it’s a thrilling read that explores an exciting and terrifying near-future." —Paste

"[An] extraordinary work...groundbreaking in both form and substance." —Hypable 

This “powerful, poignant, and action-packed” (Bustle) novel is a twisted look into the future, exploring the lengths we'll go to remake ourselves into the perfect human specimen and what it means to be human at all.


The future is curious.

STRONGER

Today our bodies define us. We color our hair; tattoo our skin; pierce our ears, brows, noses. We lift weights, run miles, break records. We are flesh and blood and bone.

FASTER

Tomorrow has different rules. The future is no longer about who we are--it's about who we want to be. If you can dream it, you can be it. Science will make us smarter, healthier, flawless in every way. Our future is boundless.

MORE BEAUTIFUL

This is a story that begins tomorrow. It's a story about us. It's a story about who comes after us. And it's a story about perfection. Because perfection has a way of getting ugly.
 
A WALL STREET JOURNAL BEST SCIENCE FICTION BOOK OF 2018
A KIRKUS REVIEWS BEST BOOK OF 2018

5 STARRED REVIEWS!

"A deep and suddenly necessary exploration of the beautiful and terrible futures we face. Every story leaves you desperate for more. Somehow, the further from today Dayton travels, the more real it becomes." --Hank Green, #1 New York Times bestselling author of An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

"An alternately charming and horrifying exploration of what it means to be human and how far we'll go in pursuit of personal and societal 'perfection.' I devoured this book." --Kiersten White, New York Times bestselling author of And I Darken and The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein


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