Friday, January 17, 2020

The Museum of Second Chances (Tomorrow's Ancestors #1), by A.E. Warren

Locutions Press, ISBN 9781999919917, February 2017

Some unknown hundreds of years in our future, much of the human species has been eliminated by a plague, and the descendants of the survivors have developed a new, caste-divided society. The lowest caste are unmodified Sapiens. Sapiens are blamed for all the extinctions, disasters, the plague, and the collapse of the old society. And not in an abstract way. Sapiens live under the rules of Reparations, in relative poverty, in ecologically correct homes that blend into the landscape. They're only allowed to fairly basic jobs.

Medius, or or "Midders," are middle caste, considered definitely superior to mere Sapiens, and doing most of the interesting jobs that require real education. However, it's worth noting that Sapiens who can afford to do so, or who win the lottery for genetic modifications, can buy three genetic changes to their next baby, and that baby will be Medius, not Sapiens.

The ruling caste are Potior, or "Supes." It would take ten genetic modifications to make your baby a Potior.

Elise is a Sapiens, and she's tired of working the the Production Center. She wants more breadth and depth to her life, and she applies at the Museum of Evolution for the newly open position to the Neanderthal, called Twenty-One.

When she starts her new job, Elise finds many things are different from what she's been taught. The Neanderthal, who tells her his name is Kit, not Twenty-One, takes a while to trust her and open up, but proves to be just as intelligent as she is. Some of the Midders she encounters don't seem to be any smarter than the Sapiens are, and sometimes perhaps a little less. The Potior who is the head of the Museum is impressive, but despite his height, presence, and physical power, he doesn't seem to be all that perceptive about either the Neanderthals, or Sapiens, or even necessarily the Medius.

There are things going on at the Museum that don't necessarily conform to the claimed mission of undoing the damage Sapiens did.

And her weekly visits home make her aware of trouble in the Sapiens community, unrest at the frankly unfair rules they live under.

Meanwhile, Elise has secrets of her own that could undo her hopes of a career at the Museum, and learning more about the world outside their immediate settlement. She does have a few friends at the Museum. Luca, the Sapien companion to the other Neanderthal at the Museum, Seventeen, who is pregnant by artificial insemination. Georgina, the Medius nurse who treats her injured arm after a mistake that could have ended her career on her first day. Samuel, the Medius supervisor of herself and Luca.

Over the next months, she learns a great deal about friendship, secrets, treachery, and the real history of her world.

The characters are interesting, complex, and have a human mixture of good and bad intentions. I have lots of questions about the future Earth we're presented with, but they're questions we're intended to have. It's an intriguing and satisfying book.

Strongly recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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