Title: This Mortal Coil
Author: Emily Suvada
Published by Penguin Random House
RRP: $17.99 (AUD)

This Mortal Coil has been on my to read pile for a while. The first in a series, it did not disappoint.

Catarina is left on her own when her father and his assistant, Dax, are taken by Cartaxus. The world has been ravaged by the Hydra virus for years and Catarina’s father has been taken in the hope he can code a vaccine. The deadly virus incubates for two weeks in the human body and then the victim blows up “like a grenade” (p. 6). The Hydra cloud from this then disperses, infecting anyone close enough to breathe in the small particles. The only immunity available to those close by is to eat the flesh from an already infected person. This virus is brutal.

Nature designed this plague as a double-edged sword: it either takes your life, or it takes your humanity.
p. 11

Catarina has only her elderly neighbour for support and company. Catarina is an expert coder herself and has survived for two years on her own. She works for The Skies, an independent rebel group trying to bring down Cartaxus and its hold on the public. The Skies has libraries of open source code, while Cartaxus closely controls the codes they have. This in turn controls the public, as everyone has a panel in their arm controlling them. Catarina’s father warned her to hide from Cartaxus and never be taken, but when Lieutenant Cole Franklin is sent to find Catarina, her world is turned upside down.

Memories are weak. They’re fallbile, That’s why I kept my scars.
Cole, p. 404

Not wanting to trust Cole, but having no choice, she goes with him where she finds what her father had warned her about is not necessarily true. She is torn between trusting and following what her father taught her, and what Cole is showing her. Cole is tasked with taking Catarina to a lab where she can work on her father’s earlier work for a vaccine. With help from a few others, including Dax, they decide to try going against Cartaxus, but there many things they are not aware of. As Catarina learns more about her past and herself, her life unravels and not only does she not know who to trust, but she is not sure who she really is.

This is an interesting read. With gutsy characters and a well-developed plot, it begins strongly and stays that way until the very end. Catarina is a likeable but tough young woman. The twists and turns in the plot are well placed throughout, keeping the reader going at a fast pace. The virus is entirely fictional and the panels in the arms of the characters, controlling their bodies, add an interesting science fiction element.

Fans of the Hunger Games and Chaos Walking series will enjoy this book. Although an entirely different story, its characters and themes are similar. I am sure it will not disappoint.

Comprehensive teaching notes can be downloaded from this link.

Many thanks to Penguin Random House Australia for supplying this book for review.