Recorder (Children of the Consortium #1) by Cathy McCrumb (2021)
Fiction | Sci-Fi
The Consortium is All. But Recorder Can No Longer Obey.
Recorder has no family, no friends, and no name. Donated to the Consortium before birth, her sole purpose is to maintain and verify the records. A neural implant and drone ensure compliance, punishing for displays of bias.
Suddenly cut off from controlling technology, Recorder tastes what it means to be human. But if the Consortium discovers her feelings, everyone she knows will be in danger.
With no name, no resources, and only an infinitesimal possibility of escape, Recorder’s time is running out.
Expected Publication Date: November 9, 2021
pooled ink Review:
WARNING: If you have things you need to get done then DO NOT pick up this book. Once you start it, that’s it. You’re in until the end and forcing yourself to put it down before then will cause excruciating pain and great distraction.
This book intrigued me even if I wasn’t sure it would be something I’d wholly enjoy. I do read science fiction, but I can be very picky with what I do and don’t like within the genre. Perhaps I shouldn’t say “don’t like” because really it’s just more that some styles or tropes often fail to hold my attention. Regardless, when I found out advanced copies were being sent out to the author’s street team, I immediately threw my hat in the ring. I love helping out authors big or small so I didn’t mind volunteering to help cheer debut author Cathy McCrumb on. I’d happily do so even just for the chance to take a peek at this new book of hers.
I admit I put off reading it, even after the file arrived in my Kindle, due to a bit of nerves. I always get this pinch of nervousness before I pick up a book because I always so desperately want to love the story within but never know if I actually will. Eventually I decided I couldn’t put it off any longer, so I grabbed a snack and got comfy. From the get go I realized I chose a poor time to begin this book because I had a lot of work to get done and this book was not going to be pried from my hands easily. To my past self, I say, “YOU FOOL.” I had so much time to read this book before and yet I chose now to finally start it??? Turns out, I just made due by sacrificing sleep. By day, I worked while my eyes kept flitting eagerly towards my waiting Kindle. By night, I stayed up late devouring as many chapters as I could before finally giving in to responsibility and going to sleep.
THIS BOOK WAS SO GOOD. The cover and blurb don’t do it justice. I’m not sure anything really could.
Recorder is just that, a recorder. That isn’t her name because Recorders don’t have names. Raised in The Consortium, she’s been trained to subdue her emotions and strive for impartiality, neutrality. Now older, trained, and with drones of her own, she’s been sent out on her first mission only for it go horribly awry.
Basically, I’ve gathered that Recorders do exactly that. They’re spread out across the human space colonies and record everything and in so doing serve as a way to enforce truth and justice. They have no names, opinions, emotions, desires, wants, friends, family, etc. Instead they receive strict life-long training and a neural implant that connects to their drones which float behind them to provide information, communication, or deliver punishment whenever the Recorder disobeys their job (For example, if they display emotion or if they interfere versus merely observe and record.). They’re basically raised to be human machines/watch dogs. Some people hate them or fear them, some are adamant that they remember that Recorders are humans, and some are just used to them and try to ignore their constant presence.
Recorder (the main character of this book, Recorder) is a Recorder, but when everything that makes her so is ripped away she’s left adrift both in identity and understanding. Before, she had her drones and their infinite data access to help her interpret idioms, social cues, facial expressions, etc., but now she’s lost forced to learn these things for herself. More than that, without a drone to monitor her anxiety by administering stabilizing neurotransmitters or her emotional displays by disciplining her with a sharp, painful shock, Recorder is finding it harder and harder to grasp onto her “normal” and instead finds herself being pulled further under the sea of all that is human. Things become even more complicated to wade through when nefarious acts begin pointing to a flaw in the Consortium’s system and all that Recorder believed in.
UGHHHH I LOVE IT. I really don’t think I’m doing a good job of sharing just how good this book is and I hate that. The whole premise is fascinating and if you’re a sci-fi buff then you’ll love all the cool tech but if you’re not then you don’t have to worry because the story doesn’t let itself get bogged down in technical terms and confusing science monologues. It has all the futuristic ingenuity balanced with action, heart, and intrigue.
First of all, I love the Recorder. There’s something about her that tugs at my curiosity and protectiveness. It’s exciting too because at the start she is rather a blank slate, though even as a carefully cultivated “blank slate” she has a unique personality she does her best to keep repressed, but with the influence of the human crew on the ship we get to see it start to grow and evolve and I loved every moment.
I immediately fell for Nate (Nathaniel Timmons) and began shipping him and the Recorder at once hehe *swoons*. Anytime Nate showed up on the page I perked up, hardly able to wait and see what interaction would transpire between him and the Recorder. He’s one of the crew, kind-hearted, and one of the few who look at Recorders and remembers that they’re people.
Dr. Maxwell, Max, is another favorite of mine. The ship’s head medic, he’s a brilliant doctor and surgeon and not only that but he has a strong sense of morality that at times comes into sharp conflict with either the ship’s captain or The Consortium. He’s that rare type of person willing to risk everything to help others and do what he believes is right. (His backstory will make you cry and I’m crossing both my fingers based on that second-to-last chapter/alternate character POV.)
Kyleigh is a cute bubble of energy determined to befriend the Recorder and Jordan is a strong leader who, while good and just, remembers her place in society and maintains a healthy sense of wariness of the Consortium and its Recorders.
There are several other characters too, some friendly and some not, but if I took the time to write about them all then we’d be here all day and honestly it’s best if you meet everyone for yourself. Just know that over the course of the book, I have become very protective of the main squad (Recorder, Nate, Max, Jordan, Alec, Zhen, Kyleigh) and if anything happens to them I’ll be so upset that dear Ms. McCrumb might start to sweat and wonder why (haha!).
I really love how though the majority of the book is told from the Recorder’s POV, we do get occasional chapters providing a pivotal memory from some of the other characters. Each of these offers a look into a key moment in that character’s life and, of course, they also include a key interaction with a Recorder. I loved these little insights because it fit seamlessly into the overall story, helped further develop the characters without them having to monologue or confess to the Recorder (especially because some of those characters would hardly be likely to ever do so), and also provided deeper insight into the varied roles and places of Recorders in this futuristic society. It was a clever way to broaden the world-building beyond the confines of the space ship the characters are held to as they travel from the Lab to the Lunar Station.
Truly I could read this book again and again and I am impatiently waiting for the next book in the trilogy!! Debut author Cathy McCrumb has secured a loyal reader and I will not hesitate to stalk her social media accounts for any hint or clue as to when we’ll receive book two! Take a chance, my friends. Take a chance on this book because it’s unique, refreshing, thrilling, thought-provoking, filled with cool space fights and cute cats and dashes of humor, heart, and humanity. It’s simply fantastic.
Recorder, the first book in the new sci-fi trilogy Children of the Consortium, invites us into a world where there are eyes always watching, always recording, always monitoring. Humans and Recorders live together but separate, each understanding their roles and precarious standing, until one Recorder is stripped of her ability to record and a crew of humans decide to show her how to live and love. A gripping balance of sci-fi adventure and philosophical pondering threaded through with all that makes humans human from humor to hate, forgiveness to betrayal, and love to loss. Do not miss out on this stellar debut!
Similar Recommended Reads: Scythe by Neal Shusterman, Off Planet by Aileen Erin, Quanta by Lola Dodge, The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, The Host by Stephenie Meyer, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
Meet Cathy McCrumb!
Cathy McCrumb is a speculative fiction writer, an editor at Havok Publishing, and a freelance editor. Her short fiction has been published in ezines, magazines, and several anthologies. Cathy graduated from Biola University with a degree in English Literature. She currently lives in Colorado with her family and hopes to one day go ice fishing.