Review | The Body Scout – Lincoln Michel

About the Book

Kobo has some problems. His cybernetics are a decade out of date, he’s got a pair of twin sister loan sharks knocking on his door, and his work scouting for a baseball league run by pharmaceutical companies is about to go belly-up. Things couldn’t get much worse.

Then his childhood best friend-Monsanto Mets slugger J.J. Zunz-is murdered at home plate.

Determined to find the killer, Kobo plunges into the dark corners and glittering cloud condos of a world ravaged by climate change and repeat pandemics, and where genetic editing and advanced drugs mean you can have any body you want–as long as you can afford it. But even among the philosophical Neanderthals, zootech weapons, and genetically modified CEOs, there’s a curveball he never could have called. 

304 (kindle)
Published on August 10, 2021 (Note: Goodreads says August 10, Amazon says September 21).
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I absolutely love near future and social SciFi. It’s a genre I don’t read enough of, and it’s one that, if done well, will really leave me thinking some deep thoughts for a long time after I read the book. I adore the genre. I really do. So, the other day when I was flitting through Netgalley to see if anyone had anything on the offer that looked interesting, I saw this book and jumped on it. 

I will be honest, though. I almost bounced off this book pretty hard when I just started reading it. The reason being, there’s a lot of baseball, and I think baseball is about as interesting as watching paint dry (I’m sorry, don’t throw things at me) so yeah. However, I have a feeling my threshold for interest in sports is abnormally low, so don’t let that deter you. Just be aware. If you don’t like reading about sports, aspects of this book might be something you need to power through.

That being said, the plot quickly takes off and things get moving in a whole bunch of different directions. At times, the worldbuilding was a bit overwhelming, and I think some readers could get a bit lost in the rapid fire details, but I actually liked that aspect of the book. I loved how much thought and attention the author put into just about every aspect of the world, the evolving culture, the relationships and more. This is a book that obviously took a lot of careful thought to write, and that paid off with a fascinating story set in a world that is similar enough to ours to be believable. It did the thing I love these sorts of books for: It made me think.

In this near-future world, body modifications are the hot thing. The body you are born with is more a suggestion than anything else, and people pay good money to modify and upgrade themselves. They go in debt for body modifications. They hire people to hunt for the right body modification. Sometimes modifications become outdated. It’s a whole thriving, wild industry and it’s the core of this book.

Baseball comes into this because while the game is the same as the we know now, the players have changed. They’ve modified their bodies for improved performance, and our protagonist, Kobo, has his finger on the pulse on the modification market. He gets called by his professional athlete brother, who is a bit out of sorts, seems off, and Kobo isn’t that surprised. Sometimes this sort of thing can happen with mods. However, Kobo is surprised when his brother ends up dead. The League hires him to investigate his brother’s death, and we go down a Who Done It rabbit hole that had some impressive twists and turns.

The plot is pretty relentless. It doesn’t take much time to get to the mystery at the center of this book, and then it takes even less time to realize that not everything is as it seems. In this future vision of our world, evolution is guided by humans, and there’s a lot of deep, dark secrets into just how things are progressing on that front. So while Kobo’s investigation is interesting, it was really the world itself that almost gripped me more than anything else, and the social and personal problems that ensued from a future where humanity is so dramatically focused on modifications for personal improvement. 

The Body Scout is pretty relentlessly paced. There’s never really any downtime, which reminded me a lot of some noir books I’ve read, where no one really has time to rest. It’s constantly one thing, then another, then another. Things are just constantly moving, which keeps it interesting, but perhaps I would have longed for some quiet moments occasionally. Some pauses in the motion to give both Kobo and the reader time to breathe and really digest the story a bit more.

Kobo was a character that I instantly liked. He’s flawed, self-absorbed, and focused on surgeries and modifying his own body with very little regard to the debt he finds himself in. However, as the book progresses, Kobo grows and evolves. He’s not the same man at the end as he was at the beginning. He starts to feel some empathy. He starts to look at the world a bit differently. Still flawed to his core, I found his personal arc, how the events he was enmeshed in changed him, to be rather fascinating and extremely well done. 

I will say, baseball stays a theme throughout this book, and I did detach from that part of it because… baseball… but that’s my personal flavor and that’s not the author’s problem. I will also say that this was an absolutely wonderful debut offering. It was wild, and unexpected, with some of the best near-future worldbuilding I’ve seen in a long time. The plot was intricate, and the author’s attention to detail truly floored me. So, if you’re a fan of near-future SciFi, and you don’t mind baseball, you’ll probably want to check this one out. 

4/5 stars