The Many Selves of Katherine North - Emma Geen

Genre: Science Fiction/Speculative Fiction
Synopsis: Nineteen-year-old Kit works for the research department of Shen Corporation as a phenomenaut. She's been “jumping”--projecting her consciousness, through a neurological interface--into the bodies of lab-grown animals made for the purpose of research for seven years, which is longer than anyone else at ShenCorp, and longer than any of the scientists thought possible. She experiences a multitude of other lives--fighting and fleeing as predator and prey, as mammal, bird, and reptile--in the hope that her work will help humans better understand the other species living alongside them. Her closest friend is Buckley, her Neuro--the computer engineer who guides a phenomenaut through consciousness projection. But when ShenCorp's mission takes a more commercial--and ominous--turn, Kit is no longer sure of her safety.


Review: This is a seriously fun book. It's definitely not without its flaws - the main one being that I would have liked a broader, more immersive experience of this technologically advanced world - I felt like I was pretty blinkered while reading Kit's story. While I've noticed the skipping back and forth in time from past to present was confusing for some reviewers, I actually thought it was largely well done - explaining the events of the present in pieces only as they would make sense, having read about some event in the past. However, given that in the present Kit is on the run, I feel this would have been a great opportunity to explore the world much more, when in actuality, very little happened. My other issue is the jumps from one chapter to another - frequently a chapter begins with Kit jumping into a new animal, and time has passed since the previous chapter. We're told what happened in the intervening time, rather than experiencing it ourselves as it happens. The sum total of all this is I felt like I was reading sporadic diary entries, rather than a continuous narrative. I only find that disappointing because I loved what I was reading so much.

The upsides include the really great writing and a pretty unique - and extremely exciting - concept. I love the idea of phenomenauts, and of experiencing what its like to be another creature. Honestly, far moreso than the story, I loved reading Geen's immersive descriptions of what it might be like to be a spider, a fox, a polar bear, a tiger. As she states herself in an author's note, she's no zoologist, so she's imagining these awesome experiences. I would love to 'jump' myself, despite the risks and fallout of doing so - I can absolutely relate to Kit's determination to keep doing what she's doing.

Kit herself was a bit of a non-event for me - naturally at the heart of this novel is the idea of self, who Kit is and what is left of her after dividing her experience of life among all these other bodies, but again I felt this was an aspect of the novel not explored to its full potential. I felt the same about the ending, which I saw coming a mile off. All in all, everything that was present in the novel was really really great, in terms of both writing and content, I just wanted a bit *more* from it to make it a five star read.

Rating: 4/5 

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