Book Review: Origin by Jessica Khoury
OverviewGenre: Science Fiction
PROS:captivating main character; beautiful, thrilling danger of the Amazon; sweet romance; high-stress suspense
CONS:some scenes will make you squeamish—like throw your book across the room squeamish. maybe don't read it on an e-device....
Jessica Khoury creates a cast of fascinating, self-interested characters whose secrets and competing motivations converge in a thrilling, absorbing story.
Origin is a suspenseful, thought-provoking tale about a girl, Pia, who is cloistered from the world, made by the scientists she lives with to be perfect, indestructible. She is absolutely devoted to their cause—creating more people like her, and wants nothing more than to become a full-fledged member of the Immortis scientist team. But when Pia gets a chance to see the world outside her compound in the Amazon rainforest, she takes it, and that trip outside the walls changes her forever.
Origin is a wonderfully written debut novel. Jessica Khoury creates a cast of fascinating, self-interested characters whose secrets and competing motivations converge in a thrilling, absorbing story.
A Few Reasons We ♥ Origin:
Pia, Immortal Girl Interrupted
At its heart, Origin is a coming-of-age / awakening story. Pia is on the hyper-awakening schedule, all thanks to a rip in the fence surrounding Little Cambridge, the compound she’s lived in her whole life. While she feels guilty for disobeying her scientist “aunts” and “uncles,” she can’t deny the thrill of freedom she feels slipping through the hole in the fence, and running through the overgrown trees with her pet jaguar.
Pia meets a native boy, Eio, and he and his people, the Ai’oa, contribute to a quickly expanding worldview found outside Little Cam’s walls, forcing Pia to question the life she’s always known, the people who raised her, and the goals and dreams she inherited from them.
As in any good coming-of-age story, your feelings toward Pia will change dramatically as she changes. She starts the story a cocky, arrogant immortal, secure in her perfection, and single-minded in purpose. We only get to see how thoughtful and kind Pia can be when she breaks out of her cage and starts experiencing the world, and forming opinions that aren’t fed to her by scientists.
Pia becomes more lovable when she learns to truly love someone else. The romance between Pia and Eio is fast-forming and sweet. There will be those who will cry insta-love foul, but this is not a typical love story. Both Pia and Eio are outliers in their homes, accepted, loved even, but lonely. This is a “last boy and girl on Earth” sort of insta-love, and it works mostly due to Khoury’s writing and character prowess.
Pia’s most impressive feat is in taking away some of the shiny lustre of living forever. Rather than envying her indestructibility, her speed and reflexes, and her infallible memory, I felt sorry for her. Pia’s perfect body, a pioneering specimen, seems like a lonely prison.
Pia’s voice is inquisitive and captivating—the best lens through which to view this story.
Morality AND Science
This book does not pit morality vs. science, but rather highlights the need for balance. Not all the scientists in Little Cam drink the crazy immortality-at-any-cost kool-aid, and yet they are fully dedicated to scientific progress, sacrificing their entire lives to studying diseases and genetics, and to furthering humanity’s knowledge of rare biochemicals.
Pia is forced to reconcile her conscience with the clinical tasks expected of her. Saying “this is TOO far, forget the reward!” doesn’t mean she has to neglect scientific progress, or abandon her years of training.
The novel may employ caricature bad guys to create tension between the two, but the choice is not binary, and the message is clear. We must take care not to lose our humanity in the pursuit of creating the superhuman, but it doesn’t mean we go back to the dark ages either.
Mad Scientists & Shadowy Organizations
We wouldn’t have any cause to question morality’s place within scientific exploration if it weren’t for some seriously evil Mad Scientists, who have sociopathic tunnel vision. In true mad scientist fashion, virtually no deed is too evil—even murdering sweet animals.
For those of you who read the synopsis for Origin and got excited by the prospect of an Amazon rainforest setting, you will not be disappointed. The Amazon has a LOT of crazy dangerous, exotic and beautiful animals—it’s like Khoury said, “I’m going to use them all! Anacondas, jaguars, tamarins, and flesh-eating ants, GET IN MY NOVEL!”
1) I want a pet jaguar, and 2) I am wearing a steel hasmat suit if I ever step foot anywhere near the Amazon.
Chew Your Nails Off Suspense
Even before Pia senses something is amiss in Little Cam, she is in danger of being discovered sneaking out, perusing contraband maps, and communicating with Eio through her glass-walled house. But as small truths are unraveled for Pia, the dangers she and her newfound friends face escalate until we are on a breathless, page-turning treadmill of shock and horror.
Watch the trailer:
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1 SIGNED copy of Origin
1 runner-up hardcover of Origin
Ways to enter:
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Contest ends 9/16.