book review

Electric Bodies, Electric Sheep?

This is a scheduled post, as I am currently in Sri Lanka. I got The Body Electric by Beth Revis from the library, and really liked it.

-Shanti

Synopsis from Goodreads: The future world is at peace.Ella Shepherd has dedicated her life to using her unique gift—the ability to enter people’s dreams and memories using technology developed by her mother—to help others relive their happy memories.But not all is at it seems.Ella starts seeing impossible things—images of her dead father, warnings of who she cannot trust. Her government recruits her to spy on a rebel group, using her ability to experience—and influence—the memories of traitors. But the leader of the rebels claims they used to be in love—even though Ella’s never met him before in her life. Which can only mean one thing…Someone’s altered her memory.Ella’s gift is enough to overthrow a corrupt government or crush a growing rebel group. She is the key to stopping a war she didn’t even know was happening. But if someone else has been inside Ella’s head, she cannot trust her own memories, thoughts, or feelings.So who can she trust?

Beth Revis is a brilliant scifi writer. This book keeps you guessing, and ponders profound questions like souls and hearts and mystery and acceptance, as well as a fast paced, ever twisting plot and well written characters.
Ella Shepherd likes her life. She is working at the ‘mental spa’ that her mother owns, while caring for her mother, who is dying, and trying to decide what to do with her life, while nursing the big wound that her fathers death left in her life.
The plot in this book was amazing. The setting- the sprawling city of New Venice, Capital of the World, works perfectly. Ella is a really appealing protagonist, wanting to do what is right but no longer sure what that is. I quite liked the political aspects of this books- a lot of drama and moral questions and otherwise interesting elements really added to the plot. however, at its heart, this was a sci-fi book, and clones and androids- which can be hacked- were central elements of the book, as the title suggests. The reveries/ dreamscapes made a really good way of foreshadowing and adding tension which I liked. As Ella and Jack try to work out what is going on and save their friends, family, and possibly world, tension heightens as death looms on the horizon and their quest becomes vital, despite not knowing whom to trust. I wasn’t surprised by the villain, but it wasn’t totally obvious either. 

The characters of this book were really well written. Ella is her fathers daughter, and she wants to be loyal to him, and to the government, whose leader has just given her a special mission. however, she is increasingly certain that these things are not the same. She is delightfully skeptical- I hate it when characters are too trusting-  and ready to do what is right- if she can work out what that is . She is brave, and befuddled, and loyal to her family but so unsure. This made the book really appeal to me, as it will to most teenagers, so uncertain of making choices and actually having to decide what to do with their lives. As more facts about her fathers research, and, indeed, the very nature of her own being are revealed, she faces some complex issues- and she still has to decide on how much power she is allowed, or how much she wants.
Jack is also a complex character. He is very passionate about his cause, and about Ella, but also willing to give her space and be thoughtful of her choices. Julie and Xavier are also interesting characters, as are Ms. White and PA Young. I wish we could know a little bit more about Dr. Phillips motives, and character, and also about Ella, before she lost her memories. There were times when the characters motives were a little ambiguous, and I wish that we didn’t have to take Ellas’ word for everything .
The themes in this book were seamlessly interwoven. I liked the symbol of the bees, which I choose to see as a fear of control or the loss of it, and the theme of trust. Ella has to trust her father, and Jack, and ultimately, herself. As she becomes more aware of her abilities, this becomes more evident. The theme of self identity- and what it means when your family are gone was also really well developed.
I like books where right and wrong aren’t easy, with characters who have to make hard choices, with a good plot and fancy technology to back it up. If you like any of these things, or Beth Revis’s previous books (there are a few Godspeed references) then you will probably like this book too. Plus, My edition had awesome bonus content at the end, including a creepily excellent short story.

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