REVIEW SUMMARY: The second book in Stephanie Saulter’s ®evolution series answers many (but not all) of the questions readers were left with at the end of the first book, Gemsigns, gives us a lot of background information Aryel and Zavcka, and opens a new plotline that will get readers excited for the next book in the series.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The Gems are now legally equal to the norms, but society has a long way to go. Aryel’s foster family visits the city for medical advice for her brother’s crippling disease, and Sharon Varsi is investigating a strange theft involving out of date genestock. Meanwhile, Zavcka Klist is rebranding her company in an attempt to start a partnership with the Gems she is responsible for creating and then nearly destroying.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Touches on important political issues; a great balance between good pacing and a well-developed ensemble cast; plot is emotionally gripping.
CONS: Handling of one of character’s special ability is heavy-handed; sometimes it’s hard to tell who the characters in the flashbacks are.
BOTTOM LINE: Some books are good, some books are even great. This one is important.

In a recent guest post here at SF Signal entitled We Need Fiction to Tell The Truth, author Stephanie Saulter more so uses the column to talk about how too many people allow their discomfort, fear, or ignorance to color their interactions with others who have physical, mental, or cognitive disabilities, but the column’s title itself is a perfect summary of so much of what she touched on in Gemsigns, and now in Binary. Gems (genetically modified people) may not look like us, but they are just like us. Does this sound familiar? This is the same line we raise (or should be raising) our children with: that person may not look like you (different skin color, or different culture, or is in a wheelchair, or is deaf, etc.), but they are just like you. Needing fiction to tell the truth, indeed. Before you start worrying about a “message” novel, Saulter isn’t trying to make readers feel guilty or feel bad. She’s showing us what can happen when we do finally remember that we are all in this together, that it’s not “us vs them”, because we are all “us”.

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NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Stephanie Saulter! – Sarah Chorn

Stephanie Saulter writes what she likes to think is literary science fiction. Born in Jamaica, she studied at MIT and spent fifteen years in the United States before moving to the United Kingdom in 2003. She is the author of the ®Evolution trilogy; her first novel,Gemsigns, was published in the UK & Commonwealth last year and will be released in the US next month. Its sequel, Binary, has just been published in the UK. Stephanie blogs unpredictably at stephaniesaulter.com and tweets only slightly more reliably as @scriptopus. She lives in London.

We Need Fiction to Tell the Truth

by Stephanie Saulter

Thank you, Sarah, for inviting me to contribute to Special Needs in Strange Worlds! I’ve been a reader of the series and a fan of the thinking behind it for some time now. I’m really pleased to be able to join the discussion.

I guess I’m qualified to do so on two fronts. I’m the author of the ®Evolution novels, which are set in a near future in which human beings have been altered, some extensively, by genetic modification. The books deal with ideas of diversity, prejudice, physical appearance, and how extraordinary abilities and/or disabilities affect people’s notions of what it means to be human.

My other qualification (which probably has a lot to do with why I’m interested in those issues in the first place) is one I share with many other contributors to Special Needs in Strange Worlds: intense personal knowledge of what it’s like to live with a disability. In my case that’s because of my brother, Astro Saulter. Astro has severe cerebral palsy; he has virtually no fine motor control and has never been able to walk, sit up straight, speak, or do much with his hands. Communication is either via a spoken alphabet system (he hates alphabet boards), or a specialised computer interface that he controls with a switch mounted on his wheelchair’s headrest – because his head is the only part of his body over which he has meaningful control. It’s painfully slow, but with it he can read, write, call me up on Skype (I talk, he uses the switch to type), surf the web…

And he can draw. Boy, can he draw.
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[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

Books have the power to make us laugh, cry, and everything in between, and there are those books (you know what I’m talking about) that can actually change the way we think and influence us in very powerful ways, even changing the course of our lives. I asked our panel this question:

Q: As authors, and readers, what book or books have affected you in a profound way, and why?

Here’s what they had to say…

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Here’s the synopsis and U.S. cover (larger version below) for Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter!
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Stephanie Saulter writes what she likes to think is literary science fiction. Born in Jamaica, she studied at MIT and spent fifteen years in the United States before moving to the United Kingdom in 2003. She is the author of the ®Evolution trilogy; her first novel, Gemsigns, was published in the UK in 2013 and will be launched in the US in May 2014. Its sequel, Binary, will be released in the UK in April. Stephanie blogs unpredictably at stephaniesaulter.com and tweets only slightly more reliably as @scriptopus. She lives in London.

I Don’t Do Dystopia, But No One’s Noticed

by Stephanie Saulter

When my first novel, Gemsigns, was released in the UK a year ago, I was mostly delighted by the reception it got. Reviewers heaped praise on the book, calling it ‘smart’, ‘tightly controlled and paced’, ‘compelling’ and the like. But there was something else it was frequently called that I simply couldn’t understand.

It was called a dystopia.
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Stephanie Saulter is a freelance business consultant who read biology at MIT before majoring in English Literature and minoring in Anthropology. Born in the Caribbean, she now lives in England. The first book in her ®Evolution series, Gemsigns, is currently available in the UK and will be published in the US in May. The second book in the series, Binary, will be available in the UK this spring, and she is currently working on the third book in the series. Learn more about Stephanie at her website, or by following her on twitter.

Stephanie was kind enough to answer some questions about the ®Evolution series.


Andrea Johnson: What can you tell us about Gemsigns and its sequel, Binary? What’s the elevator pitch for the ®Evolution series?

Stephanie Saulter: The bulk of the action in Gemsigns takes place a year after an international edict – think of it as an updated Declaration of Human Rights – resulted in the mass emancipation of genetically modified humans, or ‘gems’, from the biotech companies that had created and owned them.
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