Wednesday, January 18, 2012


TankbornTankborn by Karen Sandler

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of those very rare occasions when I feel comfortable recommending a book I didn’t enjoy myself. Tankborn is a story that raises some very important issues and manages to make all the necessary points while completely avoiding a condescending tone. It is a dystopian novel with elements of science fiction, and I think it’s safe to say that it stands out among the (too) many dystopian novels that seem to be growing like mushrooms these days.

There are three levels of society in Tankborn: tankborns, genetically engineered non-humans, created specifically for one purpose by adding a certain skill set (sket); lowborns, usually manual workers and certainly not rich, but with rights and control over their lives; and trueborns, nobility of sorts, who have wealth, power and complete control over tankborns.

Tankborn is told from three different points of view: Kayla’s, Mishalla’s and Devak’s. Both Kayla and Mishalla are tankborns. Kayla was made stronger than an average human and she is meant to be a caregiver, and Mishalla’s genes were altered in a way that allows her to be a good nanny and her job is to take care of children. As tankborns, neither of the girls has any rights, they are essentially slaves. Kayla is considered a freak even among her own because her GEN tattoo is on the wrong cheek. Devak is a trueborn, from one of the most prominent families on Loki. He saves Kayla and her nurture brother Jal from some boys and later Kayla gets assigned to take care of his grandfather.

While the social structure was carefully thought out and very convincing, the worlbuilding left a lot to be desired. Tankborn is set on a planet called Loka that reminded me too much of Earth in every way. I felt that the author, having decided to create this planet, should have seen it through and given the readers a little more information about it. There was a brief description of some animals on Loka at the very beginning that caused me to get my hopes up, but after that, the planet itself stopped being important.

The few mammals on Loka weren’t as hideous as the spider-creatures. The wary seycats that kept the vermin down in the warehouses sported intriguing pelts and tall tufted ears. The six-legged droms that roamed the plains had thick mottled wool and droopy noses and only one pair of large black eyes set in their camel-like heads.

Do you see now why I wanted more of that? To have one such passage in the first chapter, and nothing after, was a little disappointing.
I can’t say that I was really convinced by Devak’s feelings for Kayla. He went from not wanting to touch her and being disgusted by her to liking her a little too quickly for my taste.

Tankborn is a solidly written story about racism, hatred and survival of friendship. It’s entirely my fault that I didn’t enjoy it more, and while that information may be useless for other readers, I really can’t lie and say that I liked it more than I did. Part of my problem was that it felt more like a middle grade novel than young adult. I’m nevertheless pretty sure that fans of dystopia will be thrilled with these characters and society.


  1. I am glad to see someone else who feels the same as I did about this book. I'll be honest - I couldn't finish it. It had potential...but the writing left something to be desired.

  2. You have made me a little indecisive now, Maja... :P I was looking forward to reading this after Wendy's positive review on Goodreads, but now I am not so sure. I do like the sound of this book (genetically engineered creatures is a big YES for my inner nerd!) but the fact that you mentioned it was closer in feel to a MG novel than YA has put me off ever so slightly. I find it really quite difficult to connect with MG books... Still, I may decide to pick this up one day. We'll see. :)

  3. This premise sounds good but I'm kind of tired of all these under water covers! haha. I'm big on world building though so I don't know how I'd do with this one.

  4. This sounds really good. I saw this cover and dismissed it as a mermaid book. I can definitely understand your frustration with the lack of sufficient world building. I sometimes wonder if the word-count constraints sometimes cause authors to have to sacrifice some details that they would otherwise have included. I know if I were writing a book and had to edit things out, I would probably have a hard time deciding what to remove. What do you think?
    But I love the idea of a world that basically is breeding slaves and how that would work. I'm definitely putting this on my to-read list.

  5. Hello lovely Maja,
    I hate it when I have to review that is just average, those are the hardest reviews to write, I think. I agree with you about not fleshing out the world. I can't stand reading dystopian when I am thrown into a story with little background information. I appreciate your careful constructive analysis. Don't you think that YA needs to be reclassified a bit? Too many books are just getting lumped in, some are more for middle grade and some, like the one I am reading now, NEW GIRL really belong in a mature YA category! Thanks for stopping by and reading Splitter's post!

  6. I love it when a book deals with real issues in a very real way. I'll definitely be checking this out.

  7. Wow! I have a hard time recommending books that I didn't really enjoy too, so it really intrigues me that this is one of those rare exceptions! :) LOL and I had no idea that there were so many cool creatures in this book! Spider-creatures, seycats, and even the tankborns themselves... colour me intrigued! x)

    This was such an awesome review, Maja! And you shouldn't blame yourself for not enjoying this book as much as you hoped -- everyone's different, and that's totally okay! :) <3

  8. Great review, Maja! :) I think I'll give this a try.


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