***I received a copy of this book from Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.***
Soulless by Jacinta Maree
(The Immortal Gene #1)
Published: October 1st, 2015 by Inked Rabbit Publishing
Genres: New adult, dystopian, fantasy, science fiction
Trigger Warnings: death, gore, blood, violence, body horror, guns, torture
Pages: 391 pgs
Welcome to Soulless.
We are the generation that laughs at death.
Reincarnation; what was once considered a gift of immortality has become an eternity of nightmares.
Nadia Richards lives in a world plagued by reincarnation, a system of recycling souls where all past memories, personalities and traumatic events are relived daily in disjointed sequences. Trapped within their own warped realities, not even the richest and most powerful are saved from their own minds unraveling. Madness is the new human nature, and civilizations are crumpling beneath themselves trying to outrun it.
Within a society that ignores death, Nadia appears to be the one exception to the reincarnation trap. Born without any reincarnated memories and with printless eyes, the hot tempered 19 year old quickly becomes the ultimate prize to all those wishing to end the vicious cycle, or for some, to ensure they could evade death forever.
Born in Melbourne, Australia, Jacinta Maree considers herself a chocoholic with an obsession with dragons, video gaming and Japan. She writes a variety of genres including YA paranormal, steampunk, horror, new adult, dystopian and fantasy. Winner of 2014 Horror of the year and bestselling author, Jacinta writes to bring enjoyment to others while fulfilling her own need to explore the weird and the impossible.
For some reason, as I sit here and reflect on reading Soulless, this line from the deceivingly upbeat “Come On! Feel the Illinoise!” by Sufjan Stevens occupies my mind: “I was hypnotized, I was asked to improvise on the attitude, the regret of a thousand centuries of death.” This first installment in author Jacinta Maree’s Immortal Gene series deals with all manner of heavy topics, not the least of which being immortality through reincarnation. Truly, Maree’s characters have literally faced centuries of death, only to be reborn and maintain all of the memories of their previous lives. With a fascinating concept and fast-paced action, Soulless is definitely an exciting, not-to-be-missed addition to the dystopian genre.
Set in a very distant future, Soulless operates under the genetic rule that everyone is born with the memories of their previous lives lying dormant until they come to the forefront in early childhood. Originally born of a genetic defect, it gradually became more and more common until everyone was became a reincarnated soul — until Nadia Richards. As the first person in over a thousand years to be born without a soul imprint, she’s automatically an outcast in her violent, war-torn society. After being sold off to a prison for genetic testing, Nadia eventually escapes with the assistance of a potentially dangerous prisoner to find the purpose behind her deformity — or if she can stop the cycle altogether.
Generally, I’m not generally a fan of stories with a ton of gratuitous violence, especially to the extent found in Soulless, but Maree’s writing incorporates it in such a way that it almost makes sense within the context of the world she’s created. These are people who know they’re definitely coming back; death isn’t really a threat anymore. The only person afraid of death — and rightfully so — is our heroine, Nadia; because she hasn’t been reincarnated, she has no idea what will happen if she ever does meet her demise. I always love a good heroine that knows how to kick a fair amount of ass, and Nadia does so in a way that makes it clear that she’s been doing nothing but self-preservation since day one. The world in which Soulless takes place is centuries after an all-out nuclear war has ravaged the earth, causing enough devastation that society has yet to fully recover. The gaps between the Elite, the common, and the Blacklisted classes are so wide, of course Nadia feels like she needs to do whatever she can to prevent becoming a target. I’m also particularly fond of the moral dilemmas presented through Nadia’s experience: what defines “good?” Can we truly be motivated to help others without expecting some kind of reward? What defines a criminal?
Of course, that’s not to say that Nadia isn’t the only character who faces these sorts of crossroads. Along the way, she’s partnered with Diesel, a Blacklisted convict who gradually becomes more and more overshadowed by his previous lives as his time with Nadia goes on. He knows Nadia could be the key to stopping the reincarnation process, but feels like there’s something else he could feel about her lurking beneath the surface. Their relationship goes from one of reluctant partnership to almost dangerous co-dependence as they come to learn the only people they can trust is each other — and they recognize that. It’s definitely a great turn to see this type of relationship developing in the dystopian genre; while there’s somewhat of an underlying hint of romance bubbling beneath the surface, ultimately Nadia and Diesel are a unit due to trying to stay alive and out of the way of the Elites who want to see them tortured behind bars. It becomes clear after a certain point that their relationship is symbiotic in nature; whatever romantic feelings that come about later are just an after-effect. In most dystopian stories, the romance comes first, survival later (what’s good, Tris and Four).
What makes this book less than a five star rating are little annoyances that bugged me enough to make me feel like this story was less than perfect. First and foremost, the copy I had was littered with grammatical errors, often through the usage of incorrect homophones. While, technically, words would be spelled correctly, they wouldn’t be used correctly. I feel like a thorough beta reading would have really helped to pick out these errors to avoid grating grammatical annoyances. Furthermore, there were some aspects of the story that left me scratching my head in confusion. Apparently this is a time in which people often use cars, tanks, and the like without the use of petrol/gasoline. While I would like to think that by the year 3000 or so, we’ve moved entirely off of fossil fuels, but I’d like to know exactly what people are using as fuel. It’s a relatively minor detail that would actually help flesh out the world a little bit more if we were offered that information. Furthermore, we learn of a certain property of Nadia’s blood later on in the book, yet she’s shot, cut, pricked, and literally left to bleed out in certain instances. Does this mysterious property of her blood show up at all at these points? No. I was infinitely frustrated at the end of the book when we got this major revelation, because it ended up almost invalidating Nadia’s struggle through the book.
However, Soulless is an inventive, action-packed story that makes readers start to think a little bit more critically about our own current state of mortality and morality. Through the heroine, readers are treated to a story that sets the typical dystopian tale almost on its head by its relative rejection of an overarching romantic story line and interesting views in life after death — literally. I have high hopes for the rest of this series, so I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the next installment.
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