Blood Brother is the sixth of Malcolm Rose's Traces books. Traces is a young adult mystery series focused on a teenage forensic investigator living in a future society, with an intelligent robot as a sidekick. Luke Harding, recovering in the hospital from his last case, is assigned to investigate the mysteriously high number of deaths recorded at the hospital over the last three months.
Working on this case is difficult for Luke, who is suffering crippling headaches, and missing his girlfriend, Jade. But what really makes this case tricky is that one of the prime suspects turns out to be his own father. In Luke's world, children are taken from their parents at five years of age, and raised entirely in schools, with no parental further contact. Meeting his parents for the first time in more than 10 years is quite a shock for Luke. He finds himself caught between his emotions and his duty. He is completely astonished by the radical notion that his parents might love him unconditionally, and this realization changes him a bit.
As with the other books in the series, Blood Brother features an intriguing combination of bleak dystopian future, high-tech forensic tools and techniques, clever villains, and fast-paced action. Luke is a strong hero. He is smart, brave, and loyal. He maintains his humanity, despite his exhausting and soul-deadening job, and struggles quietly but determinedly against a system that forbids his marriage to his girlfriend (because matches are arranged based on like abilities).
Malc the robot adds humor, and emphasizes Luke's humanity through his own rigid though patterns. The book is filled with exchanges like:
"Your remark is in blatant conflict with expectation. I deduce that you are using irony." (Page 99)
"When I told him I was taking a thumb price, his face fell."
"Incorrect. Also, it is impossible unless he also had a face transplant and rejected the foreign tissue." (Page 160)
Malc also explains to Luke "the biochemical basis for the proverb 'Love is blind'." And towards the end of the book, he displays some traces of humanity himself.
The Traces books are a bit dark, and Blood Brother is no exception. However, the books are laced with humor, and offer considerable food for thought. Although Blood Brother is the sixth in the series, I think it stands alone just fine, and does not require the reading of the previous books. Blood Brother is highly recommended for high school fans of forensic detective shows, science fiction, and speculation about what society will be like in the future.
Publication Date: January 15, 2008
Source of Book: A review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: Books for YAs and the People Who Love Them, 50 Book Challenge. See also my review of the fourth Traces book, Double Check.
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.