Title: Subject Twenty one
Author: A. E, Warren
Series: Tomorrow’s Ancestors #1
Release Date: 1/7/2021
E.S.C.A.P.E Score: 37
(see below for breakdown)
I received a free eARC copy from Del Rey ,via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
What if our future lies 40,000 years in our past? Subject Twenty-One is an astonishing debut novel in which a young woman’s refusal to accept the status quo opens her eyes to the lies her society is built on.
Elise’s world is forever changed when she is given the opportunity of a lifetime – to work at the Museum of Evolution and be a Companion to the Neanderthal, Subject Twenty-One.
As a Sapien, a member of the lowest order of humans, she and others like her are held responsible for the damages inflicted on the world by previous generations. This job may be Elise’s only chance to escape a stagnating life in an ostracised and impoverished community.
But it doesn’t take long for Elise to realise that, away from the familiarity and safety of her home, her own secrets are much harder to conceal.
And the longer she stays the more she comes to realise that little separates her from the exhibits . . . and a cage of her own.
I always get worried when books use genetics and evolution as the cornerstones of their plot. This is because I have a PhD in those subjects and can easily spot when the author hasn’t done there research, or has miss-interpreted what they have read and it really effects my enjoyment of some books. Luckily A. E. Warren has kept the science simple in Subject Twenty One and covers the scientific basis for the worldbuilding in a concise and interesting manor, using their artistic license in very believable and well informed way.
The worldbuilding is really interesting, set in a dystopian future where a pandemic and climate crisis drove the human population down, causing the remaining population to collect into four "bases" but also drive some to follow a line of genetic modification to elevate them above others. The unmodified find themselves at the lowest rung paying for the perceived damage Homo sapiens had caused. Genetics had also progressed to the point of being able to recreate long extinct species, one of these being Homo sapiens close relative the Neanderthal. I really enjoyed this premise. I liked that all the bases were named after the amino acids that make up DNA the structuring of the genetic augmentations. We got a lot of insight into how the society functioned through all the little descriptive details. I also really liked the descriptions of the museum of extinction and how they had reintroduced species of both plants and animals.
Subject Twenty-one or Kit, was a fantastic character, gracefully skirting and developing on ideas that have been hypothesised about how the Neanderthals lived and how they interacted with us their genetic cousins. Elise out main character is also a really interesting character to follow. I also liked how we focused more of Elise learning about her ancestors and how early man survived compared to what they had become. It was nice to have the interaction across the levels from what is deemed as a primitive species to humans as they are now to what they might become. The inclusion of Elise’s deaf brother also adds not only some awesome rep, the frequent use of sign language throughout the book, but also great juxtaposition between those that perceive him to have a genetic defect compared to those that are genetically modified.
The story itself if fast paced and fun. It takes a little bit to get going and get into the world but it is really well written and I found myself loving the characters, there were a few moments that I was on the brink of tears. I just found this really entertaining and was so glad it didn’t live up to my fears.
This book was previously published as The museum of Second chances, but has been repackaged as Subject Twenty One by Del Rey Books, Book Two – The Hidden Base is also out today from Del Rey books