BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The Gillungs, a variant of the Gems, may have developed a technology capable of disrupting the energy industry. Such a technology would not and is not universally welcomed, especially coming from the still not-entirely-trusted Gems.
PROS: Excellent interrogation of social questions and ideas; a landmark use of social science fiction.
CONS: A couple of the character arcs are a bit understated or do not hit the mark.
BOTTOM LINE: A worthy conclusion to the author’s ®evolution Trilogy
The third and final novel of the ®evolution Trilogy, Stephanie Saulter’s Regeneration takes place some years after the second novel in the series, Binary, another time jump on top of of the one between Gemsigns and Binary. The genetically modified Gems continue to try and fit into human society, and get out onto the cutting edge of it. A subgroup of the Gems, the aquatic Gillungs, are pioneers of new aquatic industries and technologies, including a new quantum battery technology that might, if proven, revolutionize the energy industry and disrupt it to the same degree that the switch to the original Green technologies revolutionized and ended the fossil fuel industries long ago.
The disruption of large scale industries, however, can upset a lot of people and cause pain, suffering and unintended consequences for society. Is this new technology safe? Is it good? Beyond the questions of the Gillungs breakthrough, there is the matter of Zavcka Klist. Imprisoned after the revelations in Binary, what will she do, now that she is free, and has a group of people willing to do evil on her behalf and in her name.
The exploration of the issues of humanity, of new species and variants of humanity, the Gems, their challenges and their very lives as characters, is a highlight of the series that continues in Regeneration. Regeneration does have many of the previous characters from the prior novels, but mainly focuses on the even more extremely variant Gillungs. Their aquatic nature, lifestyle, needs and outlook make them in an explicitly flagged way a sub-community of Gems within the sub-community that is the Gems themselves. The issues of community and sub community dynamics and how the Gillungs, Gems and the baseline humans all interact is focused through the characters of the novel in the deft and confident manner that readers of the previous two novels have come to expect in the author’s writing.
The first two novels focused on the social engineering questions of the Gems: what they are, who they are, and what they should, and could, be. Those questions with the Gillungs are still here and still being asked, answered and debated, but in Regeneration, Saulter explores the problem of energy and energy technologies today by positing the possible replacement of the Green technologies of her world with the next-generation of quantum-battery energy storage technology. ra
A few things niggled at me with the characters. Sometimes, in Binary and now here in Regeneration, the author softballs the development of characters that should have had more airplay, but are a little understated. Gemsigns began with Eli Walker’s fateful meeting with Zavcka Klist, a meeting that really sets up the entirety of the trilogy, and the novel ends with Zavcka and Aryel having a final meeting about the future. While Zavcka had a previous “exit interview” with Eli, it felt like Eli should have been at this one, too, and the slight imbalance of the shape of their arcs irks me. Too, the Eli and Aryel relationship, which has slowly built over three volumes, gets a blink-and-you-miss-it sort of resolution. I thought it was unfair to both characters to have the culmination of that arc to be so understated.
I’ve said once before that the ®evolution novels are important, and with the series now complete, I stand by that assertion. Regeneration brings the story of the Gems, of Zavcka Klist, of Aryel Morningstar and of Eli Walker to a conclusion that resonates, and like its title, regenerates. For all of the troubles and challenges that her characters face, and what she throws at the world, the note of hope that comes through the two previous books is amplified in its conclusion. The world never can go back to the way it was, and you wouldn’t really want it to if you could. All you can do is to go forward and build a better world with the tools you built yesterday and today. That is as true of our modern world as the future that Saulter posits, and Saulter’s future is, in the end, a mirror on our own world, a hopeful one. The ®evolution Trilogy takes that philosophy and brings it to wonderful life.