Binary (®Evolution book 2) by Stephanie Saulter (book review)

If you like your Science Fiction on the political side, then Stephanie Saulter is certainly an author who should be on your radar. Her first book, ‘Gemsigns’ was a superbly written exploration of a future where humanity overcame disaster by engineering modified humans or Gems, then treated them like property instead of people. ‘Gemsigns’ followed the struggle of Gems to be accorded basic human rights and was a book I loved from page one. ‘Binary’ is the second instalment in the ‘®Evolution’ series and picks up a few years after Gem rights have been in place and the world is finally coming to accept them.


In ‘Binary’, we see how the world has changed in the few short years since Gems were granted the same rights as other humans. New technologies developed by Gems are revolutionising the markets, Gem-Normal marriages are on the increase and the very first Gem councillor, Mikal, has just been elected. Yet, as the world moves on, someone is digging around in the past, trying to uncover secrets and lies that have been carefully buried over not just years, but decades. A theft of genestock sets Mikal’s policewoman wife, Sharon, on an investigation that could cause ripples that reach far into Gem and Normal families alike. With the ruthless Zavcka Klist promoting a new direction for Bel’Natur, one of the biggest gemtech companies, everyone is on edge. Who is telling the truth and whose lies could cause society to topple?

Once again, I was thoroughly impressed with Stephanie Saulter’s writing style, it feels very crisp and well-edited, giving more than enough information to create a fascinating world, but never using even one word too many to get there. It’s not often that I sit back and admire the writing style, but it really does stand out and it elevates this book and so far this series to a higher level than many other books of a similar genre. What that genre is might be up for debate. On the one hand, it is definitely a Science Fiction novel, with some fascinating new technological ideas that fit in really nicely with the development of Gem characters. For example, Gems who have gills are developing sturdy and sustainable underwater habitats. While Gems who were modified to interact with technology are helping to unlock secrets of the brain that will enable development of neural interfaces to allow humans to control external computing devices. The tech side of this is interesting enough on its own and it’s nice to see such well thought through ideas.

There are, of course, other elements that make this an enjoyable read. The characters are very easy to engage with. Whether you despise, pity or love them, they’re all unique and each one brings something to the story. It’s a story that revolves around the theft of old genestock and the investigation surrounding that, which somehow seems to connect Gems and Normals in a tangled web of secrets dating back to the very first days of gemtech. As we follow this thread, we’re taken on a journey into the past of some of our major characters and, in particular, it’s wonderful to find out more about Aryel Morningstar, the winged leader of the Gem society. She was such a mysterious and almost alien figure in the first book that it’s really interesting to see how in this book she becomes a much more human, much more vulnerable character.

I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Gemsigns’ and I was a little concerned that ‘Binary’ wouldn’t live up to my expectations. However, I’m delighted to say that it was every bit as good as the first book and I’d not hesitate to recommend this, particularly if you’re interested in the tech possibilities explored by great Science Fiction. I can’t wait to see how the series ends in book three!

Vinca Russell

July 2016

(pub: Jo Fletcher Books/Quercus. 416 page large paperback. Price: £ 8.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78087-895-9)

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