Review of This Cruel Design by Emily Suvada

The nightmare of the outbreak is finally over, but Cat’s fight has only just begun.
Exhausted, wounded, and reeling from revelations that have shaken her to her core, Cat is at a breaking point. Camped in the woods with Cole and Leoben, she’s working day and night, desperate to find a way to stop Lachlan’s plan to reprogram humanity. But she’s failing—Cat can’t even control her newly regrown panel, and try as she might to ignore them, she keeps seeing glitching visions from her past everywhere she turns.
When news arrives that the Hydra virus might not be as dead as they’d thought, the group is pushed into an uneasy alliance with Cartaxus to hunt down Lachlan and fix the vaccine. Their search takes them to Entropia, a city of genehackers hidden deep in the desert that could also hold the answers about Cat’s past that she’s been searching for.
But when confronted with lies and betrayals, Cat is forced to question everything she knows and everyone she trusts. And while Lachlan is always two steps ahead, the biggest threat to Cat may be the secrets buried in her own mind

Firstly I’m still sat here reeling after the conclusion of This Cruel Design which I finished yesterday. In a direct continuation from the closing stages of book 1. The Dynamics have changed and understandably so. Cataxus have gone to even greater lengths to try and secure a vaccine by using the cruelest of incentives for their team. Caterina and those with her face themselves in a completely different race against time, thinking back it’s difficult to reconcile that most of what happened takes place in just a few days, but I think that’s because we are often meeting new people and as the book progresses fresh revelations about history and family seem to appear on every page!

With world building a new area arrives in the form of Entropia it’s a kind of a techno shanty town which felt a bit cliche but I don’t know why – I’ve been thinking that it’s been done so much before but really, I’m scratching my head to come up with a comparison. It has a Mad Max meets Ready Player One feel though with the inhabitants almost making them into physical versions of avatars. Its a vibrant oasis where the reader gets to fully understand the capacity of the technology built into humanity. The range of enhancements from aesthetic changes through to integrated hardcore hacking tech is quite a feast for the mind and a long way from the cabins and sterile bunkers of Catarina’s past.

A large part of this book deals with Catarina’s mental struggles as she tries to come to terms with the revelation from book 1 that she is in fact the mysterious Jun Bei in an altered form. Although subtle at first it’s clear to those who knew the Jun Bei of old, that she is trying to break through into Catarina’s conscious. Changes in attitudes and a quicker use of violent tech are the first warning signs and with the encouragement of Mato, Cartaxus’s head of tech, she becomes an almost Jekyl and Hyde character in waiting. It was beautifully done and pretty brutal at times, as the line that Catarina walks becomes finer.

This Cruel Design is full to bursting with revelations, where This Mortal Coil felt very much like a road movie with a condensed cast, it’s very much the opposite here with the introductions of a number of new characters. It did at times however, feel like the tech was in fact the main protagonist/antagonist, it took centre stage far more frequently and really stepped up a notch in content. As with book one I had to really drop back from really trying to understand a lot of the detail and just kind of roll with it. There is definitely a greater sci-fi feel overall.

For me though This Cruel Design for a large part of the book lacked the intensive, heart pounding peril and pace of book 1 – I felt like I was constantly breathless reading This Mortal Coil and whilst that pace can’t continue for ever it did add to the feeling that this book was suffering from middle of the trilogy syndrome. At times when I was feeling overwhelmed with the tech speak I did find myself wondering how much of it really drove the story forward and how much of it could have been condensed down.  However, it did regain it’s pace in the closing stages in quite an epic way. I also found that I was frustrated with the lack of proper medical care taken with a particular injury just moments after the author had indicated how fragile the healing process was – however if that comes back to bite the character in book 3 I’ll happily eat my words.

I did really enjoy this book though, I found myself pretty rocked by a lot of the revelations and it was quite emotional at times. That ending had me totally in shock though and I haven’t decided yet if i’m feeling heartbroken or excited, one things for certain book 3 will not be a dull ride!

4*

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