"Then my advice as your Mentor is: go paint something that blows someone’s mind."

Imagine a future where individuals can defy mortality infinitely by merging with the consciousness of another. The greats in each of their fields could essentially become immortal, unbound from the rules of nature, free to traverse the innermost depths of their minds and passions to create and innovate without any hindrance. In the Kroepfl’s narrative, the Darwinians are a high-tech, discreet organization on the verge of creating such a reality.

While the worldbuilding is impeccable, what makes the storytelling even more compelling is the character development, particularly the backstory of the six Nobels and Mentors. The characters in this novel have incredible depth, whether it’s Lake Summer—the Nobel of Chemistry—and her craving for a mother figure after losing her own mom at a young age or the Nobel of Art, Kevin, an orphaned street artist who has anointed himself as “Orfyn” so no one else can poke fun of him. His fear of bringing shame to Sister Mo and the St. Catherine orphanage is palpable and heartbreaking. Stryker, the Nobel of Peace, is carrying around his own baggage. Yet after he and Lake have trouble merging their consciousness with their “Mentor,” his speculative nature tells him something is not quite right. Could the Darwinians be holding onto secrets of their own that could directly affect him and his peers?

In the same vein as Veronica Roth’s Divergent and A.G. Riddle’s The Atlantis Gene, this work unveils an intricate web of promise that delves into a genuinely intriguing idea. On the other hand, the ethical morality, as well as the ramifications on the lives of these teens being merged, is a great unknown. With its fluid storyline and steady pacing, the book provides audiences with a narrative from the perspectives of all the main characters. Moreover, any story where the antagonist genuinely believes that they are working for the greater good, and everything else is secondary, sets things up for an inevitable conflict and unraveling of the plot.

The authors use the idea of Nobels to express their commentary on society’s plagues, from curing Alzheimer’s to stopping gun violence. For the Darwinians, this is, of course, a noble venture (pun intended). However, when the line between right and wrong is precariously close to being crossed, one has to contemplate whether something for the greater good, attained by an amoral and wrong method, is, in fact, still good. At its core, the authors drive home the idea that change can only happen in a collaborative atmosphere. As the plot progresses, seeing the bonds between Stryker, Lake, Orfyn (Kevin), and the other Nobels is fulfilling. Similarly, the communication between the various consciousnesses of the characters is incredibly revealing. It reflects on who they are as individuals and their personal readiness to tackle the adversity headed their way.

Rich with color and detail, the Kroepfls’ book immerses the audience into the world of the Darwinians and provides a bird’s-eye view of the place of each Nobel in it, along with their fears and hopes. The combination of electric energy, a storyline that never goes stale, and a vested interest in the fate of each of the characters makes this a must-read.

A 2021 Eric Hoffer Book Award Grand Prize Short List book

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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