cover image The Sentient

The Sentient

Nadia Afifi. Flame Tree, $24.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-78758-434-1

Afifi’s staggering and un-put-downable debut offers a fresh and feminist-forward take on cloning. Scientist Amira Valdez was raised in the Children of the New Covenant religious compound, where women and girls were abused and treated as second-class citizens, but she escaped 10 years ago. Amira’s new life at the Academy in Greater Westport feels like a dream. Trained as a holomentic reader, “the latest breakthrough in thought-visualizing neuroscience,” Amira sets her sights on a placement on one of the Academy’s space stations—but her dream is dashed when she’s instead assigned to the highly controversial Pandora project working with human cloning. Rozene Hull, one of the Pandora project’s subjects who herself escaped from a different fundamentalist cult, causes panic when her emotional instability puts her life, and the life of her cloned baby, in danger. As Amira slowly embraces her new position and makes breakthroughs with Rozene, she unearths a shocking conspiracy. The story moves at light speed while still making room for nuanced explorations of religion, morality, and gender, without compromising scientific detail or character development. Amira’s emotions are raw and palpable, and readers will be touched by her obvious compassion for her characters. This riveting debut is a must-have for any sci-fi fan. Agent: Naomi Davis, Bookends Literary. (Sept.)