Like a science experiment, Maladapted by Richard Kurti feels like a strange creation made from various parts, familiar in some places but alien in others. The result is a somewhat confused YA sci-fi that doesn’t quite reach its own potential.
Thanks to Allen and Unwin Australia for this review copy!
Maladapted takes place in Foundation City, a futuristic, ever-expanding metropolis indoctrinated in the principles of Wealth and Industry. Automated robots abound, and people are pushed to constantly be better and achieve more – while the outlying Provinces slowly suffer from famine and disease. A terrorist organization called ‘Revelation’ works against the government, using the teachings of the main religion (The Faith) to justify their increasingly bloody attacks.
Our main character, Cillian, discovers that he’s no ordinary mathematical genius when his train is bombed by Revelation and he miraculously survives – losing his father in the attack. In the wake of his death, Cillian discovers that his father worked with a medical research company called Gilgamesh, which operates an off-the-books genetic experimentation group called P8.
Cillian is part of ‘Generation Zero’ – a new generation of enhanced human beings, and he’s forced to work with Revelation fighter Tess in order to escape police, assassins, and P8 themselves.
Maladapted has all the elements of a great cyberpunk book. Transhumanism is such an underappreciated science fiction concept, and rarely seen in mainstream fiction – especially in the Young Adult genre. Maladated occupies a niche space, and for fans of the subgenre, it’s a welcome addition – I just wish it was a stronger novel.
The dialogue feels very wooden and oftentimes suited more to a Middle-Grade audience than the intended Young-Adult. In a genre increasingly dominated by gritty anti-heroes and finely-crafted worlds, Maladapted feels unsure of itself – the concepts are adult, the characters are teenagers, but the pacing and delivery feels immature. The world is painfully filled with ‘Digi-‘ and ‘Robo-‘ prefixes, and with so many machines fulfilling mankind’s tasks, it’s not clear where or what most of humanity actually does day-to-day.
The concepts of transhumanism, genetic experimentation, religious indoctrination, and corporate espionage are all there – at its heart, Maladapted wants to be a serious transhumanist novel, but the choppy pacing and unsatisfying ending takes away the shine.
A bold underlying narrative about the dangers of industrialism and the relentless progress of science.
Chopping pacing, and very wooden dialogue that feels more Middle-Grade than Young-Adult.
Maladapted offers a compelling insight into transhumanism and genetic manipulation, but stumbles with its characters and overall delivery.