Despite clumsy prose, the second Tankborn entry presents exciting new mysteries about genetic engineering, illness and rebellions.
As a GEN (Genetically Engineered Non-human), Kayla ranks lowest in this caste-based society. The slightest insubordination on her part could prompt a trueborn to reset her—wipe away her soul and give her body a new personhood—or recycle her body for DNA. Driving around by lorry under the authority of a lowborn named Risa, Kayla uses her genetically strengthened arms to haul goods in and out of warehouses; she and Risa also carry information for the Kinship, a secret rebel network. This information travels inside Kayla’s annexed brain, a section inside every GEN’s brain that is accessed by hooking a datapod (painfully) to the tech-tattoo located on every GEN’s face. Sandler’s strength is suspense, elements of which include the medical mystery of a disease striking only GENs (Scratch is fatal and has bizarre properties), explosions in warehouses storing GEN food, wispy hints of a second revolt (even farther underground than the Kinship) and the web connecting it all. Unfortunately, the intriguing setup and plot are dulled by the telegraphing of some revelations miles in advance and the unsubtle, cumbersome prose that eschews simple pronouns.
Longer than it should be, with a romance thread that’s dry as toast—but fans of genetic engineering and shadowy rebellions will find much to like. (map, glossary) (Science fiction. 13 & up)