A girl of abnormally high intelligence grows up in a future world plagued by a virus whose primary symptom is cognitive impairment in this debut sci-fi novel.
Electra “Kitt” Kittner is born into tragedy at the tail end of the 21st century. A lightning bolt crashes through a kitchen, killing her pregnant mom, Indira Ramanujan, and her paternal grandmother. Electra miraculously survives, and her dad, Jason, and her grandfather Justin “Doc” Kittner quickly learn that she’s exceptional—she starts speaking at a very early age. Indira had been part of the Worldstar Team, along with Jason and his friends Su-Lin Song Chou and Adom Ola, all with Ph.D.s in biotechnology. Working for the National Institute of Health, the Worldstars have been developing a vaccine for the Techno-Plague, which renders victims with “fuzzy thinking.” Effective vaccines, however, are countered by mutations of the virus. Electra has a natural immunity to the T-Plague so Jason, fearing what the government might do to her, convinces her to keep her abilities a secret. She spends her childhood subduing her superior brain, strength, and agility. But she’ll soon put all of those to good use in generating a vaccine; taking out a terrorist group, Isilabad, intent on weaponizing T-Plague or attacking Electra’s loved ones; and exposing potential moles at NIH. Ratza’s first installment of a series is incisive and profound. Ever-learning Electra, for example, mulls over various types of religious beliefs and philosophies. She even has her own philosophy, Neurosci-Extended Deconstructed Kantianism. Customs of the future, too, seem plausible, like co-friendship, conceived to incorporate couplings of any gender. Though the novel starts with alternating time periods (initial signs of the T-Plague, 2092; Electra’s birth year, 2097; and 2115), it isn’t long before the narrative is chronological. This leads to some repetition (projects involving vaccines that readers know are still ineffective by 2115) and lulls, with Electra suppressed. But action gradually increases, as the formidable teen—and later twentysomething—takes down terrorists or just depraved men in general.
This series opener boasts an exemplary protagonist and leaves plenty of story avenues to explore.