In this debut novel by Stephanie Saulter, humanity has been brought to the brink of extinction by the Syndrome, an illness caused by society's increased dependence on technology. Because of this, a choice had to be made: give up technology completely and go back to the way society lived in pre-Industrial Revolution times, or genetically alter every embryo born to be immune to this affliction. While some do chose to leave technology behind, most of society opts for the latter. As a result, genetically engineered people become a commodity. The companies, whose original goal was to create a genetic modification to combat the Syndrome and save the human race, branched out to modify people to perform other functions. They created people that could see electromagnetic fields, or could breath underwater with gills, or even detect lies simply by listening to someone speak. These modified humans - called Gems - were the property of the gemtech companies that created them. Now, over 100 years after the cure of the Syndrome, Gems are finally fighting for their freedom, despite the opposition from the gemtech companies that greatly want to maintain the status quo, and the extremist that think that Gems are an abomination and should not be allowed to exist. Enter Eli Walker, an anthropologist who has been commissioned to present findings regarding the Gem's well-being at a conference that will ultimately decide the Gem's fate: are they property or the masters of their own destiny?
"Gemsigns" is an intense, compelling read. With little superfluous exposition, the reader is immersed in the world that Ms. Saulter has created, learning how it operates as the novel progresses. The relatable and well-crafted characters leap off the page and make you not only care about how the novel as a whole will end, but also about each characters individual fate. This story is also uncomfortable at times, perhaps hitting a little too close-to-home to some of the political and socio-economical issues that currently face the world today. The biggest problem with this novel is that it had to end.