This Cruel Design by Emily Suvada
The nightmare of the outbreak is finally over, but Cat’s fight has only just begun.
Exhausted, wounded, and reeling from revelations that have shaken her to her core, Cat is at a breaking point. Camped in the woods with Cole and Leoben, she’s working day and night, desperate to find a way to stop Lachlan’s plan to reprogram humanity. But she’s failing — Cat can’t even control her newly regrown panel, and try as she might to ignore them, she keeps seeing glitching visions from her past everywhere she turns.
When news arrives that the Hydra virus might not be as dead as they’d thought, the group is pushed into an uneasy alliance with Cartaxus to hunt down Lachlan and fix the vaccine. Their search takes them to Entropia, a city of genehackers hidden deep in the desert that could also hold the answers about Cat’s past that she’s been searching for.
But when confronted with lies and betrayals, Cat is forced to question everything she knows and everyone she trusts. And while Lachlan is always two steps ahead, the biggest threat to Cat may be the secrets buried in her own mind.
I promised a follow-up review to This Mortal Coil for the sequel, This Cruel Design by Emily Suvada. I also promised to follow up on the technological themes posed by this series, and how in the very near future, we could easily see this work of fiction merge more into an account of fictional events based on non-fiction technology. Personally, I think this series to be slightly ahead of its time [in a good way], as to show readers what kind of scenarios could play out in our future. For readers who are not tech-savvy, this would probably be a 3-star read. For me, knowing about the underlying technology and just how realistic this book is, boosts that up to a 5-star read. Emily Suvada knocked it out of the park with this one, which was equally as good (if not better) than This Mortal Coil.
There are many twists and turns in this sequel as Catarina struggles with her own identity and that of the illusive and mysterious Jun Bei. We’re talking repressed memories starting to surface, and the emergence of alters (total MKUltra-level stuff), but we are given a glimpse into the technological HOWs of what was done to her, as well as the actual agenda of WHY it was done in the first place. In this book, Catarina struggles deeply with this identity crisis, which almost reaches the level of Dissociative Identify Disorder (DID) — previously known in the psychological and scientific communities as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). There are many different things that can cause this type of behavior, but in Catarina’s case we are able to see exactly how it was actually achieved in an intentional and calculated manner.
In This Cruel Design, we really see the relationship between Catarina and Cole start to develop more, as it starts to take on hints of mystery and distrust — think Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, a la Mr. and Mrs. Smith, except without accepting their roles as enemies and having an all out war against each other — it is simply a surface tension that questions each others’ true motives and really provides a huge level of depth to the characters and how the relationships are intertwined between Cat, Cole, Jun Bei, and another key individual in the book. This almost borders on a couple of entangled love triangles, but avoids any sappy tropes by rationalizing the whole thing by the circumstances of changing situations, suppressed memories, and how everything is affected by Cat’s very real perception of alternate realities.
We see the introduction of Mato and his deep history with Cartaxus and Jun Bei and Professor Lachlan, in particular. Mato brought a whole added level of technical realism and mystery to this book, which I really appreciated. We also saw less of Dax (who I personally didn’t care for), but we see an expansion of Leoban’s character and backstory, which brings him into an entirely new perspective for the reader. Additionally, we see the introduction of Anna, one of the original children involved in the lab experiments, and her bad history with Jun Bei end up causing some major friction between her and Catarina, which is interesting to watch play out.
Technological Reality – Pushing Out Patches to the Public
How real is the scenario in This Mortal Coil that brought about the premise to This Cruel Design? My possibly-flawed rule of thumb is that everything that is possible in a virtual world, should theoretically be possible in the physical world, because we are physical beings who created the virtual world based on physical world ideas and logic. The age-old occult motto, “As Above, So Below”, tells us that microcosm is a reflection of the macrocosm, and vice-versa. Now in occult teachings, this is normally referencing the spiritual world and the physical world, or the cosmos and man, himself. However, I have seen this correlation time and time again when dealing with the virtual world, which can nearly always have analogies in the real, physical world. Try explaining a really complex IT concept to a non-technical person, and you will see what I mean — the words you normally use will have no meaning to them, so you have to come up with analogies to convey the concept.
In the previous book, we saw the breach of privacy for every individual on the planet in order to push out a patch to their panels in the form of a vaccine to the virus. If you follow nanotechnology, 5G (link: Qualcomm, link: Wikipedia), and/or the conspiracy theories surrounding how the two technologies could be possibly be utilized together in order to have a mass effect on the population (link: Google Search sans “conspiracies”, link: Google Search + “conspiracies”), then you will see that it could theoretically be within the realm of possibility in the near future for exactly such an event to occur without the use of “panels”, but simply by activating the nanites, which [according to the conspiracy theories] already exist throughout our bodies simply by eating food that was sprayed via chemtrails, altered by genetic modification, or whatever your conspiracy theory of choice may be.
I will add that the only conspiracy regarding these things is IF they are already happening without transparent public knowledge or consent — because the technology already exists for it to actually happen. We simply haven’t seen any smoking gun evidence of any large-scale operation being carried out in order to leverage the technology for the purpose of manipulation. Personally, I choose to trust my government in the fact that when it comes to things as important as the wellbeing of the human race, that they would have our best interests in mind — but that’s not to say that an advanced terrorist threat or nationstate actor could not take over this same technology and use it for malicious purposes — such as the fictional Professor Lachlan, in the case of This Mortal Coil.
Entropia – Exploring the Archetype
In This Cruel Design, we see the crew venture into the city of Entropia — the archetypal land of freedom, free from government control — where all individuals are allowed the ultimate freedom of expression. This is a land, which in our own history, can be seen as The New World, where the English pilgrims fled to escape religious persecution and establish their own colonies and government, which eventually became The United States of America. However, it is more easily represented in its archetypal form as something as simple as Neverland from the early 19th century works of J.M. Berrie, or more recently — and nearly a direct correlation to Entropia — The City of Zion, as depicted by The Wachowskis in The Matrix franchise — an archetypal theme which is synonymous in Judaism and Christianity as the heavenly New Jerusalem.
In the city of Entropia, the citizens are free from Cartaxus control over their panels, and are free to experiment as much as they please with the altering of their own DNA. That’s right — a city full of biohackers — which brings us to the very real, very current topic of biohacking and its future. In the previous article when I reviewed This Mortal Coil, I touched on Elon Musk’s company Neuralink and their vision to implement a neural implant into the brain in a race to basically evolve human beings into cyborgs before artificial intelligence has the opportunity to outwit us and make us their slaves. That may sound extreme, but in a nutshell, that’s EXACTLY the intent and purpose of Neuralink, which can be read about in-depth in the April 2017, article “Neuralink and the Brain’s Magical Future” by Tim Urban. However, there are other areas of biohacking that are actually happening NOW, which we can see real results from, and they are even closer to the areas discussed in Emily Suvada’s book series, because they have to do directly with THE ALTERING OF THE HUMAN DNA.
The Current and Future State of Biohacking and Genetic Modification
Altering human DNA is not something that is currently regulated in the United States. There are certain drugs that have the ability to do this, and which we have seen promising results from. Some of these drugs include treatments for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), HIV, and a degenerative eye disease that will eventually lead to blindness, all of which treatments cost hundreds of thousands of dollars because pharmaceutical companies base their prices not off of supply and demand, but how much individuals would be willing to pay for a better quality of life. All of these topics can be seen in the Netflix Original Series, Un-natural Selection (link: official series, link: review and synopsis). Un-natural Selection deals directly with the exact topics that Emily Suvada’s series is based on — biohacking and genetic modification, and it is an absolute MUST-SEE for anyone reading this series — maybe event a pre-requisite.
The main thing that opened up a whole new world to biohackers was the discovery of CRISPR-Cas9 (see the article “What are genome editing and CRISPR-Cas9?” via ghr.nlm.nih.gov). CRISPR-Cas9 is basically a genome editing technique that is fast, cheap, and an extremely accurate method of editing DNA, which has an enormous range of potential applications (see the articles “What is CRISPR-Cas9?” and “How biohackers are trying to upgrade their brains, their bodies — and human nature”). Essentially, gene editing can be very expensive for universities and research groups, and are very hard to get funded, and they’d likely never get funded if human testing were to be involved in the mix. CRISPR-Cas9 is the equivalent of open-sourcing the human genome — it provides easy access for any individual, with the new-found ability to do what was previously only able to be done by “real scientists” — and at a much faster pace because of the low costs and lack of red tape. Also, you can’t get in trouble for human testing when the test subject is yourself…yet. Germany, for instance, has already imposed some laws against genetic modification, and specifically related to CRISPR, if I recall correctly.
One of the most prominent biohackers in the field, who was featured extensively in Netflix’s Un-natural Selection, and who is also ruffling a lot of feathers by making waves in the world of science and technology is former NASA researcher, Josiah Zayner (link: Google, link: Wikipedia), who frankly, my dear, does not give a damn about the future implications of every individual on the planet having unfettered access to modify their own DNA in whatever way they please. I’ll be honest — I kinda like this guy — but he could have a little more restraint and show a bit more professionalism when dealing with such a touchy topic. However, he does a bang up job of portraying himself as a pseudo-anarchist and social justice warrior, fighting for the freedom of expression against a future where that freedom could easily become illegal. To temporarily get off-tangent back to the original topic — Josiah Zayner is an excellent real-life portrayal of the city of Entropia’s queen of coding, Regina, who ultimately reigns supreme in this fictional safe space for biohacking gone wild. There are some major ethical questions that come into play when discussing the future of biohacking, and Josiah Zayner, like Regina, seems to ignore the possible consequences and basically believe in keeping the technology open source and available to all.
My Personal Experience with Biohacking
Biohacking is something that has been prevalent at the annual DEF CON hacking conference in Las Vegas [from what I can tell] since all the way back at DEF CON 23 in 2015, when they apparently had their first Biohacking Village. I personally attended DEF CON 26, where they were implanting NFC chips in people’s hands, and I specifically attended the Biohacking Village at DEF CON 27 this year, where I attended a talk on Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation, and received the tDCS badge, which included a circuit board, 9-volt battery, 2 electrodes, measuring tape lanyard, and a set of instructions on how to get started with DIY tDCS. This stuff is no joke. There are areas of your brain that can be mapped out specifically, and there are various layouts called montages, where specific placements of the anode and cathode have been scientifically proven to have an effect on certain behaviors of the brain. There are numerous scientific research papers that have been published on tDCS, which include helping with addiction, as well as extensive research by DARPA, who created The DARPA Montage, which was proven to help with new skill acquisition, increased focus, and accelerated learning. All I know is that on the last night of DEF CON, I had a really bad migraine, and so I fired up that little badge and looked like an idiot test experiment in my hotel room for about 20 or 30 minutes, and then the headache was gone completely.
In the YouTube series, Mind Field, in Season 2 Episode 7, a similar treatment is carried out on host Michael Stevens from Vsauce, called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), which sends electromagnetic pulses of current to specific areas of the brain, instead of a constant low-voltage direct current stimulation, which is used in tDCS (see the article “TMS vs TDCS”).
Attempting to Get Back on Topic
To circle back to the book review, I wanted to state that I feel Emily Suvada could have been heavily influenced by the world of biohacking and has some deep knowledge into the topic (without having read anything specific on the author to tell me whether or not this is the case). One of the leading factors is that in this series, Regina engineered luminescent pigeons. Luminescence is a key factor when testing gene editing in order to specifically show when an experiment can prove successful, because the success literally becomes visible. Scientists have already created glowing monkeys, as well as a glowing rat by splicing genes from a firefly. Another featured biohacker in the Un-natural Selection series is Mississippi dog breeder, David Ishee, who is trying to create glowing mastiff puppies by introducing Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) from jellyfish into dog sperm, which is his first goal to prove gene editing success before trying to start reversing diseases caused by genetic mutations from generations of breeding (see the article“Biohacking is a Bitch”).
My apologies for going off on such a biohacking tangent, but I feel that this book series is tied so deeply to the topic, that readers should probably educate themselves on biohacking and genetic modification in order to truly appreciate the extent that the author went to in order to demonstrate how close to our future reality these situations can actually be. This Cruel Design was an excellent follow up to This Mortal Coil, and I absolutely can’t wait to read the third book in the series, This Vicious Cure, which drops January 21st, 2020. I absolutely recommend this book series to all biohackers and fans of scifi, who aren’t necessarily fans of total fiction which is out of the realm of possibility, because the ideas portrayed in this book are absolutely fascinating, while remaining completely and utterly plausible.