Cameron Park Life

Cameron Park author explores what it means to be human

By From page B4 | July 10, 2013

Awakening, Karen Sandler, published Tu Books, April 2013, hardcover, 400 pgs., $18.95

“Awakening” is the second book in Karen Sandler’s Tankborn Trilogy. The first book in the series, “Tankborn,” which came out last year, introduced readers to Kayla, a genetically engineered non-human (GEN) in a world where there are sharp caste divisions between GENs, lowborns and trueborns. GENS are a slave workforce at the bottom of this dystopian society and Kayla struggles with her first assignment.

In “Awakening,” Kayla continues her path to freedom, working for Kinship, an underground movement supposedly working to help GENS, and deals with her feelings for the trueborn, Devak. As she does so, GEN living spaces and food warehouses are being bombed and the GENS are being infected with a deadly disease called Scratch.

With our own world exploring genetic engineering, the questions explored in Sandler’ s trilogy are especially relevant. Is a genetically engineered being human? What are the ethics of science in creating such beings and what purpose does their creation serve? Who determines this?

From her Cameron Park home Sandler told Village Life that, as a writer, she is a combination of “plotter” and “pantser.”

“Before the book is written, I’m a ‘plotter’ — playing out the plot and characters and doing a synopsis of what the book will be about,” said Sandler. “After I start writing, I almost never look at the synopsis. I carry that in my head and let the muse take over, writing by the seat of my pants. Novels evolve; they aren’t written overnight.”

Sandler, with 17 adult romance novels already published, decided she needed a new writing direction and with her background as a former NASA engineer, she became interested in science fiction for young adults.

“I’ve been intrigued with genetic engineering since the mid-80s when the concept was nothing more than science fiction,” said Sandler. “Along the way, my fascination with Indian culture and the caste system became interwoven into the story, as well as the notion of how skin color can so stratify a society.”

 After “Tankborn” came out, Sandler talked to her agent and roughed out books two and three. “The first  book was from  a movie script, ‘Icer,’ that I wrote,” said Sandler. “I changed a lot of things — creating a new planet and the GENS.”

“Awakening” not only develops the world of Loka and the characters that inhabit it even further than first book, but Sandler included a glossary in the book for the terms she  uses throughout the trilogy — a nod to the readers who requested it. The book builds a tension that will be resolved in the final novel, “Rebellion,” which will be released in 2014.

In a departure from the science-fiction and romance genres of her previous books, Sandler is also releasing an adult mystery novel, “Clean Burn” in August 2013.

“Awakening” can be purchased online at Barnes& and and will be available at Face in a Book in El Dorado Hills. For more information visit or

Wendy Schultz


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