speculative fiction

The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen

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When we first meet Kit, she’s a fox.

Nineteen-year-old Kit works for the research department of Shen Corporation as a phenomenaut. She’s been “jumping”–projecting her consciousness, through a neurological interface–into the bodies of lab-grown animals made for the purpose of research for seven years, which is longer than anyone else at ShenCorp, and longer than any of the scientists thought possible. She experiences a multitude of other lives–fighting and fleeing as predator and prey, as mammal, bird, and reptile–in the hope that her work will help humans better understand the other species living alongside them.

Her closest friend is Buckley, her Neuro–the computer engineer who guides a phenomenaut through consciousness projection. His is the voice, therefore, that’s always in Kit’s head and is the thread of continuity that connects her to the human world when she’s an animal. But when ShenCorp’s mission takes a more commercial–and ominous–turn, Kit is no longer sure of her safety. Propelling the reader into the bodies of the other creatures that share our world, The Many Selves of Katherine North takes place in the near future but shows us a dazzling world far, far from the realm of our experience

The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen

Published: 2 July 2016 by Bloomsbury

Source: ARC via Netgalley

Thoughts:

Although this story wasn’t quite what I expected, I liked the underlying concept. Some of my favourite SF stories follow characters who experience what it is like to have their consciousness uploaded into another humanoid body. This novel explores what it could be like to inhabit any kind of body through this technology. Kit inhabits and studies the different bodies of animal species but her company wants her to promote this technology as a form of recreation. The marketing poster girl aspect of Kit reminded me of ‘The Girl Who Was Plugged In’ by James Tiptree, Jr.

At first, I felt a bit distant from Kit’s scientific approach to maintaining her human sense of self when she is inside another animal’s body. I found it hard to imagine how a person is able to maintain that human sense of self when their embodied sense of the world is completely changed through inhabiting the body of a spider, whale, elephant, fox etc. However, the novel does explore the different experiences and consequences of coming back to a human body after such world-swapping experiences later on. The conflict between one’s human self and another self is explored quite well when Kit has to guide inexperienced people from the public who want to try body jumping.

I could see why Buckley, her anchor/monitor used language as a way to maintain that human sense of self. I came to understand Kit’s character better when I learned about her past experiences. The ending took on a bittersweet coming of age arc, which I did not expect but nevertheless, appreciated.

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3 thoughts on “The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen

  1. Ooh, this sounds like an incredibly interesting read and with so many points of intrigue and originality- the uploading of consciousness into different bodies that you say is familiar in a couple of sci-fi worlds you’ve read is such an interesting premise to be working with, and I think I’ve only read two books where that sort of thing happens- and now I think of it, one was sci-fi and one was… fantasy/sci-fi, so I guess it’s a theme that is primarily kept to the genre. The idea of uploading/jumping into the bodies of different animals, though, and getting to see the character’s viewpoint from all those different creatures, it’s just so tantalising for me, and I’m definitely going to add this to my tbr.

    Also? Wow that cover is gorgeous.

    I’d have to agree with your thoughts on how easy it would be for Kit to keep her sense of self/identity when she’s going in and out of so many animals and her whole perspective is essentially shifting; it seems like you would fall into the creature whose body you’re occupying, rather than carry your fullness of self to each animal, but I’ll still be interested to see how that’s approached and how I feel about it, retrospectively.

    Lovely review, Glaiza! I’m super keen to read this now!

    Like

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