The third installment of this series about bar-coded humans, set in the near future, gets off to a strong start, but flimsy characterization and slipshod storytelling sink the promising high concept.
Grace can’t wait to get her bar-code tattoo when she turns 17 in two days, but Eric, her crush at the climbing gym, has doubts. He suspects the manufacturer, genetics arm of megacorporation Global-1, may still be releasing malicious nanobots with the tattoos. Grace is sure he’s wrong—her dad works for Global-1, and besides, it’s convenient to have all that encrypted personal information tattooed on your wrist. She learns otherwise when she runs into her father’s colleague Dr. Harriman. Alarmed to see her new tattoo, he tells her to go home immediately, where she finds her family gone and her home invaded by well-armed Global-1 security police. Soon Grace herself lands in the hands of Decode, an underground group opposed to Global-1. This is promising material, but worldbuilding is superficial, and the generic characters are nearly indistinguishable. Substituting action for substance, the frenetic plot serves up dollops of underdeveloped rubber science and vaguely Hopi and Navajo mysticism without investing the effort needed to bring it all to life.
Appetizing flashes of wit and occasional vivid moments leave readers hungry for a real meal. (Science fiction. 12-16)