Hello Humans! Today’s review is for a book the likes of which I really haven’t seen before. Arwen Elys Dayton’s Stronger, Faster and More Beautiful is truthfully one of the most unique books I have read in a long time. There isn’t really a way to introduce this one so I say we crack on with the summary and the review!
For fans of television shows Black Mirror and Westworld, this compelling, mind-bending novel is a twisted look into the future, exploring how far we will go to remake ourselves into the perfect human specimen and what it means to be human at all.
Set in our world, spanning the near to distant futures, Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful is a novel made up of six interconnected stories that ask how far we will go to remake ourselves into the perfect human specimens, and how hard that will push the definition of “human.”
This extraordinary work explores the amazing possibilities of genetic manipulation and life extension, as well as the ethical quandaries that will arise with these advances. The results range from the heavenly to the monstrous. Deeply thoughtful, poignant, horrifying, and action-packed, Arwen Elys Dayton’s Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful is groundbreaking in both form and substance.
Now I am decidedly not a fan of shows like Westworld or Black Mirror because I am a fraidy cat who hates being scared. But what I did love were the first two books in Emily Suvada’s This Mortal Coil series and I figured this had similar enough themes and sounded fascinating so it was probably worth a shot. I ended up binge reading this book in one day and, I won’t say absolutely loving it, because it’s deeply uncomfortable at some points, but I did find it very interesting to say the least.
I got a feel of World War Z when I read this (the book not the film) in the sense that this book chooses to tell the stories of various individuals who have something to do with the theme (in this case genetic modification – to be overly simplistic) as opposed to following the narrative of one character. What’s different about Stronger, Faster and more Beautiful is the fact that between each story, each vignette, is a fairly significant time jump, taking the reader into the quite distant future through the course of the book. It’s almost a sci-fi exploration of that idea of the butterfly effect, the story of one twin being saved through the organs of the other leads on and on up until the story of two genetically modified slaves being forced to mine an asteroid by the Russians – but because you get those links, those touchstones along the route, it all kind of makes sense.
Since this book isn’t exactly plot-heavy, I think it would be too spoiler-filled to go into more detail about specific stories, you’ll have to read them for yourself, but my personal favourites were the first and last stories.
I will say that this book gets incredibly uncomfortable at times, I don’t have trigger warnings because I think I’d have to get very specific and we might be here for a while, but if you’re a particularly sensitive reader I might suggest asking about certain things and maybe reading this a little slowly. I found some parts quite tricky to process and I’m reasonably robust as a reader, just something to consider.
I thought there were some things that this book neglected to mention, I would have liked some mention of the trans community, and the intersex community, in this mix (obviously well-researched and sensitively handled), in a world where your body can be whatever you want, it seemed interesting that there was no mention whatsoever.
Overall, I thought this book was incredibly cool to read. I’ve not read anything that truly captures this quite odd tone before. I will say it is quite short but to me, it was exactly the right length. It has the narrative that it needs to convey and there aren’t a lot of bells and whistles. It’s something new, much like the humanity it describes. Too disjointed to be called a novel, too cohesive to be called a compilation – this is a cool book and if you’re looking for something to stir your mind and cleanse your palette then I would highly recommend giving it a go – but maybe not letting it give you any ideas about gaining manatee hands…
My rating 4/5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, but before that, I had read it as a library book. All opinions are my own.
What say you? Will you be reading Stronger, Faster and More Beautiful? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!