Review: The Sentient, by Nadia Afifi

Amira Valdez is a brilliant neuroscientist trying to put her past on a religious compound behind her. But when she’s assigned to a controversial cloning project, her dreams of working in space are placed in jeopardy. Using her talents as a reader of memories, Amira uncovers a conspiracy to stop the creation of the first human clone – at all costs. As she unravels the mystery, Amira navigates a dangerous world populated by anti-cloning militants, scientists with hidden agendas, and a mysterious New Age movement. In the process, Amira uncovers an even darker secret, one that forces her to confront her own past.

Fiction: FICTION / Science Fiction /
Genetic Engineering
Product format: Hardback
Price: £20.00; $24.95
ISBN: 978-1-78758-434-1

Imprint: FLAME TREE PRESS

My Review

Thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours for organising this blog tour and to the publisher, Flame Tree Press, for sending me a copy of this novel.

The Rosie Synopsis

Amira is a brilliant neuroscientist and mind reader. After escaping a cult as a teenager, she found a place in Westport, an coastal city in Oregon in the 2220s. As a student at the Academy, she is hoping for a placement in space, but she gets sent to work on a Pandora project instead. She starts working for a science corporation in the middle of the city, on a cloning project. She is there to care for the psychological health of subject #42, Rozene Hull. A breakthrough in her treatment puts Amira and her patient in danger as news gets out that the only surviving pregnant woman might actually give birth to her clone.

An attack on the research facility follows, with Amira branded a part of the conspiracy purely because of her origins. In hiding, Amira investigates and finally gets to go into space.

The Good

  • A reasonable near-future world.
  • A female lead that is complex and interesting.
  • Loony religious cults.
  • Questionable scientists.
  • A scruffy undercover space cop.
  • An exciting chase into space.

What’s not to love?

I found the writing strong and easy to read, occasionally I had to put the book down and have a walk around because it was a bit overwhelming. I ran through is book in an afternoon, I couldn’t put it down. After reading Fearless and Kaji Warriors over the weekend I thought I might be sci-fi’d out, but nope, because this book is good.

I found the description of the world in two hundred years convincing, and the back story of wars over water, social fracturing and near space exploration seems realistic, while the cults described are eerily similar to things that actually go on in the US, especially among cults and off-shoots of the Mormons. Look up some of the polygamous groups around Salt Lake and in Colorado City (which isn’t in Colorado) and you’ll see what I mean. They’re dangerous and armed, just like the religious cults in this book. The religion is different but the attitude is the same.

Amira is a very complex 25 year old, brilliantly intelligent but still with a core of the ‘compound girl’ who fears everyone thinks she’s a child still. In some ways she is innocent and scared, but in others she’s an adult. She makes sensible and ridiculous decisions, gets into trouble with her boss, finds herself in an impossible situation and finds a way out of it. She must reconcile her past with her present in order to have a future.

The plot was fascinating and kept me interested with interweaving stands, incredibly vivid description and a strong drive forward. The background to the story is brought in subtly, where it is relevant to the plot, and the minor characters are as well-fleshed out as the major character.

The Not-So-Good

I got nothin’.

The Verdict

I have yet to get a bad book from Flame Tree Press, whether in translation or new fiction. This book is probably the best I’ve read from them. Keep it up.


Author Bio

Nadia Afifi is an Arab American science fiction author who lives in Denver, Colorado. Although born in the United States, she grew up in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain before returning to Missouri for college. From an early age, she knew she wanted to be a writer, but having two scientists as parents also instilled a love of speculative fiction. Her experiences in the Middle East and her multicultural upbringing have driven the stories she wants to tell, by exploring present-day issues such as women’s rights, religion and cultural identities through a futuristic lens. Her father is a Saudi geologist of Palestinian descent, while her mother is an American geologist from St. Louis, Missouri.

She attained a Bachelor’s in Journalism, followed by an MBA, from the
University of Missouri and currently works for the Department of Veterans
Affairs by supporting new projects to improve the agency’s healthcare
systems. While working for the VA, she began her first novel, The Sentient.
She has also written several short stories, including “Exhibit K”, which
recently featured in Abyss and Apex magazine.

Nadia is represented by Naomi Davis at Bookends Literary Agency. When
she isn’t writing or working, she spends her time hiking in Colorado, thinking about her next story on the treadmill or planning her next overseas vacation.

Published by

R Cawkwell

Hi I'm Rosemarie and I like to write. I write short stories and longer fiction, poetry and occasionally articles. I'm working on quite a few things at the minute and wouldn't mind one day actually getting published in print.

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