Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Beta by Rachel Cohn - A Review

Beta is a new take on an old science fiction concept, Clones.  In Beta, clones are used for slave labor in a city created for the rich and affluent.  Clones are used in the city because it is too expensive to fly in workers, and because the city itself would make the workers lazy according to those who live there.  The city is called Demesne, and it’s an island paradise.   The main character of the novel, Elysia is a beta clone, which means a new or newer version that hasn’t been tested yet.  She is a clone made from a 16 year old girl and is the first ‘successful’ 16 year old clone as far as her creator is concerned.   She is of course beautiful, graceful, amazing, blah blah blah.  Clones are made on Demesne to have no feeling, no taste, nothing but the desire to serve their masters, do their masters biddings, whatever that might be, and die when they have outlived their usefulness.   They are programmed with a chip inserted into their brains when they are created so that they can perform for their masters in a way that would make them happy.  Elysia is supposed to be a playmate for the children of the family that purchases her and keep the mother of the household happy.  She does this and finds herself feeling and seeing things she shouldn’t, beginning with memories of her first, the person she was cloned from.  Elysia is afraid that she is a defect which is itself a defect, because she isn’t supposed to feel fear.  As time goes on she finds out that more of the clones around her are also defects, they can feel, taste, and have emotions.   She learns of an underground movement to free the clones and make laws so that they are not treated so inhumanely.  She begins to trust those who purchased her which is a huge mistake but I won’t go into that, no spoilers here.  

Beta was an interesting read, it made the reader think about civil rights, and how sometimes blood has to be spilt to make it a better place for those who come after.  Elysia’s life was far too heartbreaking though.  It felt like the author took it too far in the end.  There will probably be a sequel in which the poor clone will end up even more heartbroken than the first book.  I have to admit I like a happy ending, and this was not one.  Beta was a fast read, well written, and interesting but I feel like the torture the author put the clone through was just too much in the end.  There was no balance, it just kept getting worse for the clone.  Those who enjoy depressing science fiction will enjoy this one.

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