See the Crystal Raindrops Fall

What’s Left of Me — Kat Zhang
Hybrid Chronicles, book 1

Left Of Me

2012’s What’s Left of Me is the first volume in Kat Zhang’s Hybrid Chronicles.

Alone of all the world’s regions, only the Americas have chosen to eliminate the two-minded adult hybrids, to seal themselves off from the chaos that hybrids cause. The rest of the world can have its Great Wars, but North and South America are secure, peaceful, and steadfastly conventional.

Like all human children everywhere, Eva and Addie were born as hybrids, two minds sharing a single body. Most New World children settle, a process in which the weaker of the two minds fades away, leaving only a single, stable, intellect. Although clearly fated to vanish, Eva lingered on, unable to control the shared body, but still present. Despite the best treatments modern medicine could offer, it seemed the child was doomed to be one of those unfortunates safely sequestered away from decent folk.

Eva_and_Addie eluded institutionalization by embracing the one technique that would keep the adults satisfied. They lied.


Still double-minded, Eva_and_Addie pretend only Addie remains. One body, one mind, and the adults (while still aware of the child’s alarming medical history) stop paying close attention to the child. They believe it won’t be necessary to dispatch them to some dour asylum for life. The duo’s pretense requires constant vigilance to avoid exposing their secret, but thus far it has been successful.

What self-deluding adults miss, other hybrids (those who are passing, those who have successfully concealed their nature) notice. Hally Mullan is actually Hally_and_Lissa. Hally_and_Lissa, like their brother Ryan_and_Devon, are as double-minded as Eva_and_Addie. Behaviours that seem merely a little eccentric to adults are obvious tells to Hally_and_Lissa. Motivated by a desire to help a fellow hybrid, Hally_and_Lissa befriend Eva_and_Addie. The revelation that Hally_and_Lissa are a fellow hybrid initially provokes alarm, but the companionship of a fellow hybrid is too much to pass up. The alternative is a life spent in solitude in a society that fears and persecutes adult hybrids.

The downside of befriending fellow hybrids is that if they are caught, their friends may be caught as well. Ryan has enough time to warn Eva_and_Addie to run before he is detained. Eva_and_Addie fail to take advantage of this warning in time. Handed over to the medical authorities by their own well-meaning parents, Eva_and_Addie (along with Ryan_and_Devon and Hally_and_Lissa) are sent away to the Nornand Clinic of Psychiatric Health.

Most hybrid asylums are mere holding facilities, prisons whose inhabitants will never leave. Nornand is a progressive facility, determined to cure the hybrids of their lamentable condition. Never mind that the hybrids don’t want to be cured. The hybrids are clearly ill; their denial that they are ill proves that they are.

Progress comes at a cost. Medical science does not fully understand why some people remain hybrids and other do not. Treatments are hit-or-miss. New treatments are, alas, sometimes fatal. But you cannot make omelettes without breaking eggs. To Nornand, Eva_and_Addie are just another egg…

 ~oOo~

The scientists of the time believe that the propensity for adults to remain hybrids has a strong genetic component. Accordingly, the government has carried out a long-running eugenics program to eliminate the unwanted genes from the New World gene pool. More accurately, they have committed (and are committing) a long running genocide, to the point that even a moderately unusual phenotype is grounds for suspicion that someone is foreign. Not that they would call it genocide. This is mere housecleaning. The state is quite open about the means used to produce an adult population free of hybrids.

This book is either set in an alternate universe or it’s our future and the government has falsified vast swaths of history. Various lines of evidence suggest strongly that it’s set in the future; whatever caused hybrids to appear was recent, and the actual history of the world was very different from the one the government promotes. Eva_and_Addie’s America is one where people don’t travel much, where telecommunications are primitive that so double-checking official histories would be tricky. Not only that, but one senses that asking the wrong questions could warrant a visit from the authorities.

There are a number of real world inspirations Zhang might be drawing on here. While I am not sure which ones they might be, it doesn’t really matter. I expect the novel’s intended teen age audience includes any number of people for whom openly being who they are would be dangerous indeed.

The first in its series, What’s Left of Me is busy establishing the setting and introducing characters and conflicts. Nothing is actually resolved. That said, while the grander arc is left open, the novel does function as an actual novel, rather than being the first 343 pages of an ongoing story. Still, readers might want to track down all three books before starting.

What’s Left of Me is available here (Amazon) and here (Chapters-Indigo).


Comments

  • Ray

    Why do hybrids cause chaos?

  • James Nicoll

    The general belief is the incessant struggle for control of their bodies drives them mad and prone to unfortunate political decisions, that the Americas are peaceful because they make sure one mind or the other in each person is extinguished. Presumably, this is as soundly based in fact as the idea bilingualism is bad for children and allowing women to read will make their brains overheat.

  • Robert Carnegie

    Wikipedia says, "Zhang was born in Texas to immigrants from China. Zhang graduated from Vanderbilt University." This could be relevant, although her own site says she started writing a novel when she was twelve, so if this is it (which isn't asserted - and apparently the trilogy was sold 7 years later, when mathematics says she's 19) then higher education should not have influenced it directly. Apparently she and her childhood best friend had a big Bronte-family-style storytelling thing going on; whether the best friend was imaginary also isn't specifically stated. One wouldn't necessarily know? :-)

    How does this two minds thing work in storytelling? In some sci-fi, external mind control is used to treat someone else's body as a puppet while the body's owner watches from inside, and the owner may be able by effort to resist the control. So that's one way. Or maybe only one "mind" is "awake" at one time? Can they talk to each other on the inside, or do they have to leave notes?

    The author and Wikipedia seem to think that it's a secondary world with, presumably, the same geography and place names as here on Earth-3, because, presumably, it didn't do Philip Pullman any harm. We know what happens if you call your setting Gondal. Margaret Atwood went with Gilead, but with a twist...

  • James Nicoll

    Both minds are conscious and aware of each other. It's possible for one to go to sleep and then wake, to give the other mind privacy (settling is basically this process without waking). They can and do converse. But only one gets to make the body do stuff.

    • Robert Carnegie

      Is the first-named person always the driver, or do they switch? I assume the latter, or it would be really easy to pretend that there's only one personality.

      But as I think you're saying, it's a YA story and less about a credible situation than about being an allegory of whatever-you-want.

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