Welcome to my stop on the Subject Twenty One blog tour! Huge thanks to Del Rey UK for giving me the opportunity to take part in this! I was provided a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Del Rey UK
Publication Date: 01/07/2021
Length: 304 pages
Genre: Sci-Fi | Dystopian
CW: mentions of ableism
Elise’s world is forever changed when she is given the opportunity of a lifetime – to work at the Museum of Evolution and be a Companion to the Neanderthal, Subject Twenty-One.GoodReads
As a Sapien, a member of the lowest order of humans, she and others like her are held responsible for the damages inflicted on the world by previous generations. This job may be Elise’s only chance to escape a stagnating life in an ostracised and impoverished community.
But it doesn’t take long for Elise to realise that, away from the familiarity and safety of her home, her own secrets are much harder to conceal.
And the longer she stays the more she comes to realise that little separates her from the exhibits . . . and a cage of her own.
I do love dystopian sci-fi, especially when it’s coupled with experimentation and isolation, so as soon as I heard the plot synopsis for this novel I knew it was one that I had to get my hands on.
I felt that Elise was a brilliant protagonist and actually quite refreshing for a novel of this genre. Whilst she is a Sapien in the Outer Circle (the lowest in the social hierarchy) and not entirely happy with the way they are treated, she is happy with her family and wants to learn more about the world rather than change it. This desire to learn more, and to get out of her mundane production job, sees her taking a risk and joining the Museum of Evolution as a Companion for one of their Neanderthal exhibits. I love how she completely threw herself into her job and was always eager to do the best she could for Subject Twenty One, not simply to secure her position at the museum but because she wants to do what she can to improve Subject Twenty One’s wellbeing.
I really enjoyed the range of characters that we were introduced to over the course of the novel. Even though the social hierarchy is incredibly strict and serious (down to how many syllables you can have in your name), I liked how relaxed and funny (some) of the characters were. There are just so many that I liked and who really brought something unique to the novel. Having the novel from Elise’s perspective was especially interesting when it came to character interaction, because we were never entirely sure who she could trust at the museum. She had grown up learning to be suspicious of the higher classes (‘species’), so we can’t help but also be suspicious too.
The way Subject Twenty One was portrayed was brilliant too – I don’t want to say too much about this as it was great to learn more about him as Elise does, but I did love how he isn’t quite what you initially expect. I also really appreciated the inclusion of sign language as the primary source of communication for certain characters in this novel, including Elise’s deaf younger brother, Nathan (who was delightful).
The future that Warren has brought to life is fascinating and one I can’t wait to see develop over the course of these four novels. The idea that the human race is divided into subspecies is already interesting but, to go further and incorporate genetic engineering and how far it could potentially go (eg. genes for IQ, physical build and empathy) is such a unique take on this topic and one that feels very believable, which gives the entire novel an extra depth of an unsettling atmosphere.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and could have easily read it in one sitting had I not been interrupted. It was completely gripping and had me hooked through the characters, the world and the pacing. I highly recommend you check out this first installment of a series that I will be keeping a close eye on!