Gemsigns: Or, People are People

Gemsigns (Evolution) - Stephanie Saulter

It doesn't happen very often, but every once in a while I will come across a book that by all rights I should love, and yet I just can't connect to at all. Dystopian near future, sci-fi elements used to discuss larger current social issues (in this case racial discrimination), short chapters, plenty of characters to choose from - these are all things that usually have me totally immersed. And yet, I just couldn't get into this book at all. I want to be clear here: I didn't actively dislike this book. I couldn't put my finger on any one thing that wasn't working for me. I just simply couldn't connect for whatever reason, and I really didn't care. I very rarely fail to finish a book, but when I do it's books like this where I just can't bring myself to pick them back up again. This was a book club selection though, so I did power through to the end (which didn't actually do the story any favors).

The story itself centers around a conference set to determine the rights of a genetically designed sub-set of humans called Gems. There is a lot of time spent by one of the primary characters attempting to pin down whether or not Gems are just like unmodified people. Which is not the most effective storytelling tactic since we, the readers, are already convinced of this fact. That may actually be the biggest weakness of the book: it reads like a persuasive journalistic piece trying to convince us of something that seems terribly obvious. And I also must admit all the twists at the end seemed obvious to me as well. Had you asked me halfway through the book to tell you how it would end I would have been able to dictate it to you with 95% accuracy. Maybe that was just me though.

I think this book could be enjoyed if approached with the expectation that you were going to get some very journalistic style writing focused more on social issues than on individual characters or story arcs. There will be people who really enjoy this book. This could easily be someone's all time favorite. Unfortunately I just never seemed to get pulled in, and remained an aloof spectator just watching the news while waiting for a favorite show to come on afterwards.