This YA sci-fi novel explores a future in which authorities test psionically gifted teens for inclusion in a cutthroat, corporate-run society.
In 2172, meteors comprised of the parasitic metal adrium leveled the world and also “caused the psionic gene to emerge” within the remnants of humanity, which allowed for telepathy, telekinesis, and even more potent abilities. When 12-year-old Sai’s psionic powers awaken, she destroys residential Block 63, killing and maiming thousands. The people who rebuilt the world after the Disaster Era—the Gerts, Newton & William United Conglomerate—send a man named Bastion to retrieve the person responsible for the chaos. Four years later, Sai is living at a training facility where she’s tested physically and mentally against other psionics her age as well as against humanoid psionic-adrium hybrids called “dominos.” After surviving Sai’s initial training, Bastian becomes her mentor in darker psionic arts, such as stopping a heart. Throughout, Sai acknowledges that the smoothly running capital, UC Central, has problems. Her own parents, living on the outskirts of GNW’s settlement, were addicted to the drug Shine and committed heinous acts to remain high. When Sai learns that Bastian also needs Shine to function, it kindles her questioning nature, forcing her to confront the lies at the center of GNW’s society. Debut author Hanna takes familiar sci-fi genre elements, such as an outsider network of rebels and emotionless, superhuman companions, and spins dystopian gold. The concept of the dominos—including the beings’ color-changing talents—is endlessly fascinating, as is Dom, the sly, original hybrid to whom Sai grows closer throughout the narrative. If readers blink, they’ll miss the quick but potent action sequences (“The crossbow bolt is crudely fashioned, and [Sai] can feel rust flakes falling...into her body”). Sai eventually finds herself becoming the unassuming rallying point for the hopes of those around her. Later, she realizes that in a world where authorities microchip citizens and treat them like products, a better option is to fight to “make it somewhere people want to live.” From top to bottom, this is a fabulous series opener.
A bracing debut that might just knock the wind out of readers.