Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Skinned by Robin Wasserman

This book is the first in a series. I listened to it on audio and I am waiting for the library to get more of the series. Skinned is a great story about a girl who wakes up in a new body, a mechanized version of herself. Her brain and memories are what they were before, but her body and even voice are different. She needs to learn how to move and function in this new veriosn of herself.

In an interview with author Robin Wasserman explained how a person is "skinned".

How does the process work—downloading the human consciousness into the computer mind?

The brain is frozen, cut into thin slices, scanned, and then mapped onto a computer. (As it turns out, there are scientists who speculate about the best ways to do this, so I cobbled together the procedure from their research.) Memories are periodically backed up, so that if necessary, the brain can always be downloaded into a new body. Externally, the body mimics human bodies—it’s anatomically correct and covered in a synthetic flesh that looks and feels nearly real.

Earlier in the year I read The Adoration of Jenna Fox, which tells a similar story in a completely different way. Pearson uses a more lyrical style to express Jenna's disconnect with her indenity. While Robin Wasserman's character remains a caustic teen. Lia has one advantage over Jenna Fox, she was able to keep her memories. Lia is able to move forward with the rememberance of who she once was. But maybe this is worse because she isn't the same person. Even though she feels like the same person on the inside, everyone else is struggling with who she is on the outside. It is easy for Lia to forget that she looks different. But the people looking at her have the constant reminder that she isn't who she used to be. That she is different, that she is artificial. Whether it is pity, fear, or anger, she is treated in a way she never was before. Lia used to be popular, she never knew the scorn of her classmates. Now the looks that used to be filled with envy are now filled with distane.

Both books deal with the moral and ethical issues surrounding these kind of procedures. I enjoyed the world of Skinned more than that of Jenna Fox. I liked the way the story unfolded in Skinned, but I did not particularly like the character of Lia. She was abrasive, self centered and annoying even when she was giong through her self awakening. Jenna had a nievity that was appropriate but kind of annoying as well, but between the two of them I like Jenna better. Both books deal with fascinating aspects of future technological and medical avancements and question what it is to be human. The authors both did an excellent job exploring these elements.

Also in her interview with Wasserman shares her experience delving into a new genre.

This is my first real science fiction novel, and I was pretty intimidated by that at first. I’d decided to set it in the near future, without stopping to think what kind of challenge that would pose. When you set a book in the distant future, you can create whatever kind of world you like—but since this book is set within the twenty-first century, I felt bound to construct something that would seem somewhat realistic. I wanted this world to feel like a natural outgrowth of our own.
On the Simon and Shuster website, Robin shares:

My life in 8 words:
"Chaos punctuated by boredom (or sometimes vice versa)."

Look for the next book in the series, Crashed, out now.

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