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D. N. A.: Alta by Alex Hurst

D.N.A.: Alta - Alex Hurst, Kevin Nichols

Alta Williams suffered through a chemical accident in her early 20s that left her in a very sad state. Her skin was ruined. But nanoTech corporation stepped in and offered her a then-experimental replacement of her skin using their new nanoCell tech. Later, she developed a lung cancer due to the accident, and again, nanoTech stepped in offering her an experimental lung replacement. But now she is positive that nanoTech is up to no good. She just needs the proof.

Helping her is a self-learning A.I. program that needed a friendly host – and Alta’s skin was the perfect residence for this program, the Digital nanoCell Accelerator (D. N. A.). We readers enter the story where the two are still getting to know each other. Alta is both amazed and a little frightened at D. N. A.’s ability to temporarily alter her skin and even her DNA to her immediate benefit – hardened skin, claws, heightened hearing, etc. Together, they pry into nanoTech’s secrets.

This was a fun read, being a mix of the superhero and science fiction genres. I enjoyed the underdog versus the mega corporation theme. The pacing moved us along at a swift pace. There was never a dull moment. Alta herself was feeling the pace of things too and you could tell she needed a hot, luxuriant bath and a lengthy nap once it was all done. There’s some fun tech, though most of it deals with the AI character D. N. A. The science part doesn’t ever go very deep so you can focus on the plot and action. As a biologist, I wanted a bit more. Altering DNA is not easy, especially quickly and temporarily. There was one scene where Alta needed very hard skin so D. N. A. went for a soft-bodied mollusk. Now these particular mollusks do have a very hard shell that is created over time, but that shell is not part of their body. So, I scratched my head a little at that one. Still, suspending my biology-based disbelief, it was a fun tale with many possibilities open to the duo.

Alta’s character is still in the ‘let’s get to know one another’ stage even by the end of this story. I would have liked to know her a little better by the end. I felt that I knew D. N. A. better than Alta simply because of the joking between the two. However, with that said, I enjoyed this read enough to want to dig up Book 2 once it becomes available and spend more time with these characters.

The story does spend some time doing a little world-building. It’s the future and the Earth has become heavily polluted. There are those who are not genetically tolerant of all this pollution. Some few humans have the right genes to be legally sanctioned for reproduction but many are not allowed such a privilege. It is an interesting world with an intriguing mix of the dark, polluted world and shiny new tech that may save us all.

I am very pleased to say that we have a non-Caucasian female as the lead character in a superhero book. Hooray! It is excellent to see some diversity in this story, and it doesn’t end with Alta’s character. I rub my hands together in anticipation of what the author will include in subsequent books. There’s plenty of world left for Alta and D. N. A. to explore.

Illustration:  Kevin Nichols made some beautiful illustrations for this novella. Most of those illustrations focus on Alta. She’s a lovely woman who looks like a real woman with real muscles and facial features. I really liked that she wasn’t heavily made up in make up or had distended limbs and unbelievable cleavage. Then we had some illustrations of the modifications D. N. A. made to Alta and those were quite fun to see. Fur, fins, etc. At the end of the book, we had some bonus info about the author, but then several bonus illustrations and sketches from the illustrator. It was very cool to add those in and I spent quite some time enjoying them. The mix of the dark background (giving the tale an almost noir detective feel) and the science fiction components built into Alta’s skin was a captivating combination.

I received this book from the author at no cost in exchange for an honest review.