Skip to main content

Class book review: This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada

A survival story to make you lose the will to live

News article image

A survival story to make you lose the will to live

This Mortal Coil
By Emily Suvada
Simon Pulse
464pp, £7.99, paperback

This story about the survival of the human race had me hoping I’d be consumed by one of its hydra-cloud explosions. The emphasis on describing its complicated fictional technology slows the pace, which prevented me from forming attachments to the characters.

Maybe everyone else is well-versed in the ways of coding, genetic engineering and virus-outbreak management. The students liked it, which means they’re more intelligent than me – although I’m not sure we needed a book review to prove that.

David Gower is assistant headteacher at King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. He tweets @david_gower83

Pupil reviews

The right mix of action and adventure

‘Thrilling, adventurous and ghastly’

Emily Suvada’s portrayal of an outbreak in which humans turn into uncontrollable beasts is shown in great depth in This Mortal Coil. Seventeenyear-old Catarina has her father ripped away from her then finds herself murdering others for her own survival.

A perfect mix of questions and answers keeps the reader hooked, from a small cabin hidden in the mountains to the isolated wilderness of Canada. That said, some ideas behind the coding may be a little long-winded for those who are more interested in adventure than computer science. However, this novel, in a genre I would never normally pick up, left me aching for Suvada to write the next part of the story.

Aaron McIntyre, age 14

‘Believable and disturbing’

When I picked this book up, I expected another typical futuristic novel, but instead I was captivated by Emily Suvada’s twist on this genre. The author draws from her knowledge of astrophysics and interest in genetic engineering to make the book more believable – and for that reason, more disturbing. It’s a page-turner I know I’ll come back to again and again.

This Mortal Coil is set in a world where a lethal virus is wiping out the people on Earth. We follow Catarina, the daughter of an eccentric but extremely intelligent coder, on a journey to discover a cure.

Although this book is action-packed, Emily Suvada takes time to describe how Catarina is feeling and we get to know her as a person. At times, I felt exactly like Catarina: lost and a bit confused, as the story revealed its unexpected turns. If you love science and technology, then this is a book you must read.

Ella Gorman, age 13

‘Hooked til the last word’

This Mortal Coil is a great first book by Emily Suvada. It has the right mix of action, adventure, comedy and suspense to keep the reader hooked until the last word.

The main story revolves around a young girl, Catarina, who grew up in a world of code. As well as her father being a master coder, she is a child prodigy.

When Catarina receives news of her father’s death, all hope seems lost. That is until she finds herself in a race against time to decipher a code that could end humanity’s current suffering, while unravelling the secrets of her father’s mysterious past.

The author threads her unique narrative style with a lot of technical vocabulary, which provides a level of detail not always found in books aimed at our age group – and I loved it.

Izzy Price, age 13

‘Made me feel as if I was living in their world’

A plague is threatening the life of the planet in This Mortal Coil. Catarina, the daughter of a brilliant coder, is the only one who knows how to stop it.

This book was particularly well-written because it had an original storyline. Dystopian-themed novels are quite common and yet the author managed to create an alternative plot. The characters in it are interesting and it made me feel as if I was there, living in their dreadful world.

However, this book is not perfect. The character twist at the end did not fit with the storyline that well, though it does enable the author to continue with a possible sequel.

I felt that that the writer could have given the story a more definitive ending, rather than a cliffhanger.

Sanjay Gudi, age 14

If you or your class would like to write a review, please contact

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you