Science created him.
We created him.
Now we have to use him.
He will destroy everything that makes us human … He must be uncreated.
The following review contains spoilers.
Cillian is the sole survivor of a terrorist attack on a packed Metro train. He carries his father out of the wreckage, but rather than imparting final words of love, his father uses his final breath to utter the word ‘Gilgamesh’. How did Cillian survive the attack when everyone around him died? What is Gilgamesh? Images of Cillian carrying his father out of the wreckage go viral, and Cillian finds himself on the run without really knowing who he is, or who he should be, running from. Tess is a survivalist, having joined Revelation after the death of her family. Like Cillian, she is also a sole survivor of an attack. Revelation sends Tess to make contact with Cillian, forcing her to re-evaluate her own belief system. With both characters displaced from their home and any sense of family or security, they must either join forces or do what they’re each programmed to do.
Told with a third-person omniscient narrator, Maladapted is an action-packed story set in the futuristic Foundation City. Themes of connectivity and temporality are explored through various forms of technology, including gun-building apps, security bots and encryption tabs. Foundation City is an aspirational city where everything is temporary, as pop-up shops and cafes evaporate on a daily basis. Unfortunately, much of what the reader learns about the ever-shifting Foundation City is through exposition, rather than showing characters experiencing temporality.
The plot of Maladapted races forward at the expense of character development. There was little reason for Tess to have any internal struggle with her allegiance to Revelation, as the religion is presented as nothing more than an extremist group from the outset, with their mantra,While we Breathe, We Trust, furthering the cliché of mindless/brainless disciples. The only element of suspense is achieved through the possibility of Tess either killing Cillian or being killed by Revelation. Cillian is a lone genius, who shifted schools every few terms before finding a place at an academy for gifted students, and eventually securing a scholarship at the age of fifteen. Like many fifteen-year-olds, his greatest stressors in life are dating and finishing assignments on time. Both Cilllian and Tess lack depth, and serve as tools to move the plot along, presumably because there is so much story to cram in. It’s only once Tess and Cillian are inside Gilgamesh that Maladapted gains depth and feeling, as passive anecdotes of the city and the politics of religion versus science give way to the experience of their time in Gilgamesh.
I really wanted to like this book, as it had so many elements to make for a great read, but the abundance of exposition and lack of depth of character made it a hard slog. Maladapted is the first book in a series, so here’s hoping the second book has room for greater character development.
With thanks to Walker Books for providing a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.