A significant science fiction novel, Lucy King
12 April, 2021
Neands, a gripping YA novel by Dan Salmon, tells the story of Charlie Rutherford, a teenage boy living in a world full of chaos. A DNA-altering virus is spreading throughout the world infecting the majority of the population. Human genes seem to be reversing with people evolving backwards until they appear very similar to Neanderthals.
Charlie’s father was a scientist, as was his mother, who tried to alert everyone to what was going on. He was immediately accused of lying and trying to cause chaos. Everywhere scientists are disappearing, along with information about the virus. When Charlie’s father dies and his mother disappears, he’s alone and scared until an old friend of his parents arrives and Charlie begins to understand more about the virus.
Neands is set in Auckland during the present time. The idea of a new virus plaguing the world is certainly relevant now with the Covid-19 pandemic affecting the lives of people worldwide. Even though the virus in Neands is quite different from the coronavirus, it is still relatable to young people who have had to adjust to a changing world due to the pandemic. It’s also interesting to read a science fiction novel set in New Zealand, as in my personal reading experience I have not come across many of these.
I enjoyed this book because of its interesting plot and characters. What stood out in the book to me was the resilience of the main characters. No matter how bad things got, no matter what challenge presented itself, they faced it with determination and courage. Also, what made the book unique was the newspaper clippings and excerpts from Charlie’s notebook peppered throughout the novel. They added visual interest to the book and drew the reader in.
The novel discusses many significant themes such as bullying, being forced to grow up too soon, relationships, grief and loss. These are portrayed through Charlie’s thoughts: “I’ve lost my parents and become a teenage orphan – the safe world has gone!” These thoughts demonstrate how losing the ones we love can strip us of our childhood innocence.
I felt the book ended with many unanswered questions. Although this may frustrate readers, it gives me hope that there will be another book to come.
There were a few typographical errors throughout the book but overall I enjoyed reading Neands. The novel had strong characters, an intriguing plot, and I hope to see a second book come out soon. In my opinion, Neands would best be suited for those aged 12 and up who enjoy reading science fiction.
- Lucy King is 13 and lives in Tauranga.