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The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen
Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ) Bloomsbury Circus General Fiction (Adult), Sci Fi & Fantasy Pub Date 02 Jun 2016
One part speculative fiction, one part scifi thriller, The Many Selves of Katherine North is an imaginative novel that should not be passed by. It is a story that will linger with readers long after the final chapter is read.
What lies at the core of identity? Is it defined by body and sensation or something more? If you could be another - whether animal or person, what type of insight into their experience could you gain? The Many Selves of Katherine North explores these questions and many others within its pages. At once beautiful and troubling, The Many Selves of Katherine North is a thriller that describes a technology with both a tremendous research potential and a potential for extreme danger and destruction. The novel does not only look at self, it also asks what holds a sense of self together when body, when consistent physical and mental stimuli, are not present.
It is easy to empathize with Kit as her world starts coming apart, to understand her fear as well as her desperate need to keep jumping. For Kit, identity is entangled completely in the act of becoming "other". It is her own body that is alien. Geen does a marvelous job of showing the beauty of being another, of experiencing life in full, whether as a fox, a tiger, an octopus, or a whale, while communicating clearly the awkwardness of being human. The more I read, the less willing I was to put the book down. I wanted to understand how Kit ended up on the streets, running and afraid. I wanted to know what had happened at ShenCorp and if there was anything or anyone she could trust. While Kit may not be the easiest person to understand, her hunger and yearning for safety and belonging, for understanding resonates in us all.
Katherine North is a phenomenaut, an individual trained to project her consciousness into specially designed bodies (ressies). The purpose of the technology is to gain a greater understanding of the lives and experiences of different species, ranging from the smallest insect to the largest mammal. ShenCorp employs many youth as phenomenauts. At 19, Kit is the oldest and most experienced phenomenaut, more at home in the ressies she embodies than in her human skin. Her grasp on the human world is fragile, particularly after experiencing "death" as a fox. After the tragedy, ShenCorp quickly shuttles her into another program, eager to make use of her face and reputation as a phenomenaut. But as she jumps, Kit feels she is being watched. More and more things go wrong, and she loses trust in her coworkers and surroundings. Kit takes flight, desperate to survive and desperate to reveal the wrongs being done by ShenCorp.
I received a copy of The Many Selves of Katherine North from the publisher and Netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.
Kit has been projecting into other species for seven years.
Longer than anyone else at ShenCorp.
Longer than any of the scientists thought possible.
But lately she has the feeling that when she jumps she isn’t alone…
Kit is a phenomenaut. Her consciousness is projected into the bodies of lab-grown animals made for the purpose of research. Fighting and fleeing, as predator and prey, she hopes that her work will help humans better understand the other species living alongside them. But after a jump as an urban fox ends in disaster, Kit begins to suspect that those she has trusted for her entire working life may be out to cause her harm.
As fast-paced as it is beautifully written, this thought-provoking and utterly original debut from a remarkable young writer is part of the new wave of speculative literary fiction that includes The Bees, The Well, Station Eleven and The Chimes.