Loved it! 😍

A story that makes you think about what it really means to be human and if perfection is really worth it.

In a twisted, perhaps parallel version of the world we know now, human kind are split into two main entities: genetically engineered and enhanced humans called perfects, and average humans seen as little more than animalistic property called imperfects. When a perfect named Carmen meets an imperfect named April, her first instinct is to use April like the slave their society says she is. Until that is, April begins acting like a person and not the dumb animal Carmen was led to believe. There are those in their society that even a perfect like Carmen has a bone to pick with, so together, the young women start a catalyst of events that throw everything they thought they knew of their world into question. It leaves readers wondering, what does it mean to be human and how far will these characters go to find out?

Perfect has a quick pace that throws readers right into the plot without letting them catch their breath. The setting reminded me a lot of 80s diesel punk, like some version of the Terminator city hardware running on Blade Runner software - lots of grunge mixed with humanity politics and ethics. If that's one thing I would warn readers about, it's how a fast pace paired with heavy topics like cruelty and abusing others based on power dynamics can hit so hard. In the story, there are torture devices implanted on those deemed subhuman based on the idea that they can't even feel it the same as others - a terrible, real idea rooted in eugenics that cursed the second World War. In one scene, characters may be helping each other, while in the next one they realize they have power over the others and immediately betray them on instinct. It casts a bleak back drop where the resourceful Carmen and tortured April meet, and it shadows their relationship for a chunk of the story. It also may be a bit disturbing to see regular humans treated like animals by 'the next best thing' - i.e. the next step in Homo sapiens' evolution (if you can consider genetic manipulation evolution, that is, which a lot of characters do) when that next step is hardly any different. The behavioral and belief changes characters go through though, especially paired with the detail-rich writing Heller gives us that really light up the page, make so much of the carnage worth sifting through. Some people you sort of root for (looking at you SPCA-For-Humans queer couple made of two doctors that almost get it, but not quite) and others you're hollering for (oh Carmen - won't tell you if it's a good or bad holler, but man was I hollering!).

The best part of this story is the hope it folds in, that there are people out there who can change their world view when shown something better and that those people will fight for that better world. Heller isn't exaggerating in that part of the tale. It takes dystopia and turns it on it's head in that way, and the reader becomes a participant in the story depending on what kind of reasoning and definition of 'humanity' with which they come into and out of the story. There were a few occasions where the pace felt far too fast and some actions made by characters felt incongruous because of that fast pace, but the story-telling and world-building are rich enough to sustain the novel. The novel is well-timed in a 21st century where the topic of humans and humanity is hot, what with immigration, asylum-seekers, and war tearing up the globe for the past 50-odd years. Lovers of social-justice and science fiction, particularly in one of the [insert adjective]-punk sub-genres, will especially find this crossroads of sci-fi and philosophy particularly engaging.

Reviewed by

Freelance writer (and reader) of speculative fiction, sustainability issues/responses, local community news, and queer topics. New England born and raised, and loves the Pacific North West. If I can't find the topic I want to read, I write it myself!

If I Could Talk I'd Tell You

About the author

I'm a technical writer, resume writer, and published author, but my real passion is classic TV shows. I write detailed analyses of old sitcoms on my blog, view profile

Published on March 03, 2023

110000 words

Contains graphic explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Dystopian

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