Georgia Blain, Special, Random House Australia, 28 March 2016, 336pp., $19.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780857988072
This is a novel set in a post-dystopian future. A major cataclysm happened, and humankind struggled to survive. The society which developed in the aftermath placed great importance on genetically engineering their offspring. The gap between rich and poor is huge, with almost no chance of the poor improving their lot. One of the very few ways is the Lottery. Poor parents can buy tickets for the chance to have their child genetically engineered and sent to an exclusive boarding school, after which they will be guaranteed white-collar employment, and thus a better life than their parents. Fern Marlow is a Lotto Girl, born genetically engineered to poor parents and raised at Halston, an exclusive boarding school. She has almost finished her studies when her life is turned upside down by revelations which make her question her whole identity. To keep her safe she is ‘data-wiped’ and sent to live in one of the slums as a refuse sorter. But is she really safe? Who can she trust?
This is an interesting book which explores the nature versus nurture debate, and touches on the value of genetic engineering versus chance in the creation of remarkable humans. It is slow in places but will make its readers think. Fern is an authentic, but not always likeable, narrator and her character development is good. This book will appeal to thoughtful young readers and those that don’t mind the slower pace.
Reviewed by Rebecca Kemble