Book Review: Beth Kander, Original Syn

Original SynOriginal Syn by Beth Kander
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Though I haven’t been a huge sci-fi fan in many years, Original Syn lives up to some of the best classic science fiction I read when that was a mainstay in my reading life. The novel is inventive, has compelling characters, and has a fast-paced plot that is never predictable. Moreover, it explores ideas that are as relevant today as they might be in the imagined not-so-distant future. Kander considers the effect of technology on humanity, as does most great science fiction, by positing an earth where humans have used high tech to integrate themselves with their machines. Though we never get too far into the science of the ‘singularity’ (anyone who wants to know more can look it up, since it’s hardly an invented theory — only the practical application is fiction), we are asked to consider how technology is already informing our reality, for instance through social media and the web. Even more compelling are the ways some of Kander’s characters have compromised themselves in the quest for power and her exploration of systematic class and race difference: in the novel, this is mostly seen in the power dynamics between the Syns, who are in power and who have synthesized with technology, and the Originals, who have not and therefore are outcasts subject to eugenics and genocide. Race and class differences as we might understand them are also alluded to by who in American society had access to the technology to become a Syn and by the test subjects who were the beta generation for the Syns and are now second-class citizens. Though violence is always a threat in the police state the Syns have created, this is as much a story of two star-crossed lovers, one Original and one Syn. It will not be giving too much away to say that everything isn’t fully resolved in this first volume of the trilogy. Though the ending is satisfying in its own right, Original Syn leaves readers clamoring to read books 2 and 3 in the series: Born in Syn and Syn and Salvation. Fortunately, the third book is due out this month, so we won’t have to wait long for the final installment!

View all my reviews

Published by Kendall Dunkelberg

I am a poet, translator, and professor of literature and creative writing at Mississippi University for Women, where I direct the Low-Res MFA in Creative Writing, the undergraduate concentration in creative writing, and the Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium. I have published three books of poetry, Barrier Island Suite, Time Capsules, and Landscapes and Architectures, as well as a collection of translations of the Belgian poet Paul Snoek, Hercules, Richelieu, and Nostradamus. I live in Columbus with my wife, Kim Whitehead; son, Aidan; and dog, Aleida.

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