Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton: Part One

Is it read-worth? So far yes, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. When I read the back of the book and saw that this book was comparable to Black Mirror, I was picturing the longer episodes for some reason. I was expecting a long and frightening novel comparable to Bandersnatch.  I wasn’t picturing short stories. Sadly, I’m in the mood for a longer book right now to read in between chapters of Midnight Sun. But I did really enjoy the first story about Julia and Evan. The concept was intriguing and horrible at the same time. If you and your semi-identical twin were doomed to death, what would you do to survive? If you depended on the organs of your loved one to live, would you take them? The incorporation of religion alongside science called attention to the moral ambiguities of these procedures. I was curious to read more. I wonder if future short stories will answer all of the questions I have about part one.

SPOILER ALERT:

The first part of this collection of short stories really caught my eye. I was incredibly intrigued by Julia and Evan. Everything down to their existence as a semi-identical pair of twins really interests me. I didn’t know semi-identical twins were a natural occurrence. I thought things like that only happened in science fiction. This book made me look into them and realize that things that this do actually happen.

And to be honest that’s super cool. Genetics are insanely interesting to me. It would be amazing to see the physical comparisons between two people who are exactly 50% exactly the same. I’d love being able to see the differences too. I love playing the Sims for exactly this reason.

Throughout this first part of the book, Julia and Evan were hospitalized for their inability to grow organs large enough to support their bodies. Their growth was stunted and their movements were limited. Because Julia’s organ growth was more stunted than Evan’s and her body was beginning to fail, she was selected to give up her organs to her semi-identical brother so that he may survive. Their organs would be fused in order for at least one twin to survive. 

Even as they were both in the process of dying, they had such a complete understanding of each other. They could even communicate telepathically. Dayton somewhat implied that this was due to the fact that they were semi-identical twins. Their puns and close relationship brought a lot of comedic relief to an otherwise side and difficult storyline.

However, right before they were to be fused, a holy man, Reverend Tadd, burst into Julia’s hospital room to warn Evan that causing the death of his sister would mark him as a demon. It would be evil to use her organs to survive. This gave the book a sense of dread that I really appreciated. 

Would Evan be tainted by this experience? Would a demon take root in his body? Was this a truly evil thing to do? I don’t know, but I wanted to see where the book would take this.The morally correct thing to do in a situation like this is so ambiguous. There is no real right answer.

And it made me ask what I would do. Could I live with myself knowing that the only reason I was alive is because I took my dying siblings organs? I don’t know. I love my brothers so much. They are two of my favorite people. I also love living and, if the choice was one of us dying o both of us, it’s hard to say the right thing to do is to kill both of us. What would you do?

It became even more curious that, after the procedure was performed, Evan awoke to a voice inside of himself, communicating with him. It was implied that the voice was his sister, Julia, through her use of puns, but I wonder if it truly was. Did Evan just have a mental breakdown? Is he traumatized by this experience? I would be. Or is it a demon, as forewarned by Reverend Tadd? Were his actions so evil that a demon entered his body? Does this book want to really explore the connection between science and religion? Or is it truly his sister, living on in him? They were telepathically connected. Were they always meant to live in each other’s heads? What does that mean for their future?

Part one of this collection of stories really caught my attention and made me ask myself a lot of questions. What would I do in this situation? How can you live if you helped cause the death of a love one? How could you live if they died to save you? If Julia is really trapped in Evan’s mind, how will that affect her? Will she be happy there? Will Evan be happy with that for the rest of his life? What will happen next?

I don’t know if the future short stories in this collection will answer any of those questions, but I rather enjoy just being able to ask them. Books like this make you think in ways you wouldn’t normally. I can’t wait to read the other parts of the series.

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