This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada
There are not many books that really “get” me. I tend to get bored easily by fiction of any type, especially if it is not very realistic. Also, the virus trope got old in the early 2000s. That being said, this book really resonated with me in a strong way, and I officially got “got.”
This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada is a book about hacking, DNA, the brain, hacking DNA, hacking the brain, and everything in between. Being a Certified Ethical Hacker and Information Security professional, this was right down my alley. It helped that the viruses in this book were both physical and virtual, which allowed me to ignore the played-out trope and focus on how realistic the scenarios in the book actually were, and could possibly foreshadow a very real potential future.
I really liked the two main characters, Catarina and Cole. Shannon always ends up making me read books where the main character is some badass girl who I can’t relate to, but this girl was super badass, and I did indeed relate to her. At first, I thought Cole, the Cartaxus soldier was going to be a douchebag who at first reminded me of Zak Bagans* from Ghost Adventures.
* Side note: be careful with the Zak Bagans link above. It was the closest image I could find to how I initially pictured Cole in my Mind Palace, except when searching for a decent photo, I seem to have somehow stumbled upon some weird-ass Zak Bagans NSFW fan fiction… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Anyway, Cole’s physical image didn’t change much, but his overall douchiness was miles more tame than Zak Bagans. I just pictured Catarina as a less cringey, more attractive, and total badass version of Kristin Stewart — something like exhibit A or exhibit B.
If I had to explain what this book is like by describing well-known movies in a way that is totally off-putting and would probably prevent you from reading the book until I said “please ignore me, it’s really a good book, just trust me, and read it” — that movie mashup would be something like TRON: Legacy meets Road Warrior in The Matrix and get married…28 Days Later (obligatory) — but don’t let the virus/outbreak thing throw you off. I hate virus plots. They are so 2000 and late. This Mortal Coil is different. There are very few zombie-like creatures, and they are well within the realm of possibility given the realistic circumstances, so for me, this book gets a free pass based on sheer futuristic realism.
This Mortal Coil also has some strikingly-similar basic themes as the those seen in the Netflix Original Series, Altered Carbon, which is a scifi “cyberpunk” show that I tried to start watching a few months back and couldn’t really get into, but after recently picking back up on it, I’ve been binging it ever since. If you are a fan of Altered Carbon, then definitely read this book. Similarly, if you’re not a TV goob and just a book nerd who is a familiar fan of The Illuminae Files Series by Amy Kaufman and Jack Kristoff, then This Mortal Coil is an absolute must-read. It brings the somewhat played-out scifi themes from The Illuminae Files to a whole new level of excitement and realism. In my opinion, The Illuminae Files Series as a whole is 3/5 stars. This Mortal Coil is a perfect example of how modern, technological scifi can be done right and is a straight-up 5-star book, right along with the sequel, This Cruel Design, which I finished recently and will try to review as soon as time permits.
Pretty much every aspect of this book was firing on all cylinders, from archetypal secret human testing, extremely reminiscent of the very real MK-Ultra program carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency in previous decades, and even featured blackout agents, which are almost a direct correlation to MONARCH super soldiers, who are said to have undergone DELTA Programming, which supposedly fell (or fall, depending on your source) under the MK-Ultra umbrella initiative.
Note: MK-Ultra was a very real thing, however, MONARCH programming still falls under the label of conspiracy since it is tied up with loads of disinformation and will lead you down a rabbit hole of Satanic Panic and gay frogs — so I’m not providing any links and will let you Google it yourself so that you can end up on a list somewhere.
These are the type of things that get me pumped. The places where fact meets fiction and the lines start to blur to the point that either could be just as real, if not more-so than the other, almost existing in a state quantum superposition or uncertainty. Knowing the things that I know, I knew that nothing in this book was too far outside the realm of possibility, and for me, that’s true excitement.
In order to fully-appreciate how real the scenarios depicted in this book could actually be, one can simply take a look at Elon Musk’s most recent endeavor, Neuralink (official website). An absolute masterpiece of a write-up on Neuralink was published by Tim Urban on Wait But Why back in 2017, titled Neuralink and the Brain’s Magical Future. An additional G-rated version to share with old people in formal settings is available here. It’s a bit of a long read, but it’s super-informative as to where our current technology currently stands in relation to bio-hacking the brain. I may almost suggest it as a prerequisite for the book itself. Very interesting stuff. You can stay up-to-date on the developments of Neuralink via their official Twitter account.
I am going to follow up with a later post (including spoilers, which will be clearly labeled), and I hope to go more in-depth, describing some of the core underlying themes in This Mortal Coil in relation to the current state of bio-hacking, Neuralink, and the probable future of the human race. Stay tuned!
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