This is a book review of the dystopian novel Burrowed by Mary Baader Kaley, releasing Jan 10, 2023, from Angry Robot.
One of the best things about the novel is that it’s also a medical thriller. A massive chunk of the latter half of the book deals with the characters attempting to find a cure for a disease, and that aspect was really interesting. The fact that this was the crux of the novel, rather than the protagonist fighting someone or something, was a nice change for the genre. There is a lot of medical and science lingo in the dialogue, but it’s still easy to read and it is not dry.
The characters were fine. Zuzan felt more like a YA heroine than an adult one at times – she’s brilliant, discovers her beauty as the story progresses, has multiple young men fawning over her, it turns out her faults are actually strengths, has a special power/gift (in this case, eidetic memory), and is tough. As such, she fell a little flat for me, as she’s inexplicably competent at everything she does. Her struggles are mainly external against the forces that see her low life expectancy and disability as a problem. This a relatable and important issue, but it leaves her very surface level.
One thing I didn’t like about the novel at all was the love story. On top of not understanding what they saw in one another, as they never talk about anything other than work, there’s a major power-dynamic issue, as the love interest is her boss (given her young age, I found this a bit off-putting). Likewise, there was no real tension between them.
To get back to stuff I really liked though, the book is very easy to read and follow. Most of the scenes (not romance scenes) have wonderful tension and I was never sure where the story was going next. The story definitely isn’t formulaic and it was wholly engaging. I loved the gender parity and the whole slew of women in STEM in the book. The focus on female friendships was excellent, as well as the messages around accommodation for disability and on childrearing that focuses on openness and learning rather than rules and controlling behaviour.
This book has so many great things going for it that I think anyone who likes dystopian novels (especially dystopian YA) will enjoy it. It’s fun!
Burrowed comes out Jan 10, 2023 and you can pre-order it here!