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The International Writers Magazine: Yougn Adult Thriller

The Gryphon Project
Carrie Mac
Paperback: Puffin Canada ( 2009)
ISBN-13: 978-0143168140
Sam North review
Carrie Mac is probably one the worse neglected assets that Penguin/Puffin Books has in all the world.  If she had more astute publishers Ms Mac would probably be selling as many books as Stephanie Meyer. 


Her brilliant award winning The Droughtlanders (The Tiskelia Trilogy) is barely even still available in Canada, let alone anywhere else, and those three books are some of the best, most exciting and politically on target young adult novels ever written, encompassing terrorism, climate change, sibling rivalry, something much like the Cirque du Soleil and huge battlescapes and yet she remains utterly neglected by a publishing house that could be reaping millions from her books (with sharper covers and international editions).
            Now she has published The Gryphon Project that treads in similar shoes to The Adoration of Jenna Fox – a book again much better promoted by different publishers.  This is a future (unnamed Vancouver) where the rich get three chances at life and the poor none.  Let me explain, we are talking a future here where bio-regeneration 'RECON' is the norm if you can afford it.  No child ever need die for long, no old person need waste away, you have three chances at life and if you have an accident or fatal disease they will take your original DNA and regenerate you (at the exact age you were and with luck with memories intact).  The poor have no such chances, the middle-class just one or two chances, depending on income and status.
            Phoenix is born into this wealthy world but has already blown two chances.  One when she was born prematurely, another when she drowned as a child.  Worse when they regenerated her she had lost her memory and has to learn to love her brother Gryphon and her parents and friends all over again.  Her brother Gryphon still has three ‘recons’ left and he’s the great sports hero at school with a rich future ahead of him.  Phoenix is devoted to him but lately he’s been acting strange, taking risks, losing at sports, risking his lucrative sponsorships, almost as if he doesn’t care.
            Phoenix begins to worry he’s into drugs and going to ruin his life, but when she discovers that he deliberately killed her when she was young  ‘to see what it was like’ she struggles to forgive him.
            Their father Oscar is into religion, something that is considered a bit of joke in this ultra modern society and to wake his kids up he takes them into the ‘poor’ zone so they can see what spoiled lives they lead.  They are nearly swamped by semi-starving people desperate to get out of their rat-infested lives and Phoenix is shocked.  She never knew people lived like that and perhaps is a bit too smug about her way of life and all the chances everyone has.  But she too only has one life left and realises that she’s not as different to the poor as she thought.
            But what is Gryphon’s secret, why is he risking everything? Why is he snubbing Phoenix all the time? And what is her best friend Nadia's boyfriend Saul's problem? Why is everything disintegrating around her. Suddenly no one trusts anyone in her social network.
            Then Gryphon dies – is it a foolish prank or suicide?  If it is suicide he loses all his rights to ‘recon’ and he’ll be gone forever.  Phoenix out of love and devotion to her brother has to find out the truth.  Gryphon’s friends close ranks, Saul disappears and there are just hours to find the truth before Gryphon is gone forever.

            Carrie Mac thinks hard about the future.  It’s a likely scenario that when we have the chance to live ‘forever’ we too would be spoiled and regret it and I like the idea that the future is far from egalitarian.  Of course there will be the poor, they are always with us and British Columbia where this suspense thriller is set is on the cutting edge of the future.  Many live like kings even now, but one glance at the debris of humanity living on Hastings and you glimpse Phoenix’s future world. The division between rich and poor will grow exponentially and be decided not just by money and education but biogenetics and access to second and even third chances. Today’s kids reading The Gryphon Project will most liekly grow up in a world where this will no longer be science fiction but fact and that’s the scariest notion of all. I admit that This novel is perhaps less focussed than 'Jenna Fox' and indeed not as gripping as 'The Droughtlanders' but is certainly worth investigating.

(Amazon will find The Gryphon Project for you on Global Penguin/Puffin for territories outside Canada)

© Sam North October 24th 2010
Author of Mean Tide – a child’s adventure in psychic phenomena

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