The only people to survive the Spore Wars are the Starters (youth) and the Enders (elderly): both vaccinated because of their vulnerability. Everyone else between the ages of 20 and 60 died, including Callie’s parents.
Callie and her little brother, Tyler, are unclaimed minors living on the streets. Survival to them means getting through the day. When Callie hears a rumour about a place called Prime Destinations, a business that rents out youthful bodies to the elderly, she heads in for a consultation, only to leave determined not to get involved. But as things get desperate, Callie finds herself back at Prime, ready to hand over her body to a stranger.
Starters by Lissa Price holds an interesting premise: renting out your body so that an elderly person can recapture their youth. There are many of paths where this could lead and Price keeps readers on their toes with plenty of twists and turns.
Signing up to be a donor with Prime Destinations, Callie wakes up in a world that she would normally never be able to touch: a world of fast cars, glamourous clothes and huge mansions. It all seems like a dream, until Callie discovers that her renter has a deadly agenda.
I’m generally a huge fan of neologism (creating new words) or substituting words in fiction to create a stronger atmosphere, or world, but I am not sure how well it works here. Substituting the names of words when we already have them can feel a little unnecessary; it shows a great sense of imagination, but unless it improves the story as a whole, it doesn’t need to be done. Some of the words work, as Price creates a technologically advanced world, but other times, I wonder if the original words might have been a better choice.
As it is, some of the ‘replacements’ are distracting, as it requires matching them up to the ones we know. And though it isn’t hard to do, it still draws people away from the story, when they should be just flowing through it.
The plot is intriguing and well paced, though there is some need for more backstory. The novel revolves around the aftermath of a war: the Spore Wars, but what really happened? And what part do the ‘renegades’ play against the ‘friendlies’? There’s not much detail to go on. To many people this won’t be a problem, as Callie’s story will be enough to keep them hooked, but I felt that the lack of history took away some of the depth and motive from the other characters.
Having said this, it is still a good read. I am curious about The Old Man. Who is he and what does he want with Callie? And what is going to happen to her and the other donors? Will Prime Destinations be shut down or will they continue with their lethal plan?
Starters is a novel full of potential. It shows a delicate balance of power that lies between the wealthy and poor, and the Enders and Starters. And it makes you wonder, who is really in control of their own lives? And once it’s taken, how do you get that control back?
Available now: Random House RRP$24.95