Burrowed, by Mary Baader Kaley

22 Jan 2023

The Book

Pages: 364
Age Group: Young Adult
Published on 10 Jan 2023
Publisher: Angry Robot
Available on:


If you had to endure a debilitating condition of body or mind, which would you choose? In this world, everyone suffers.

In the far-future aftermath of a genetic plague that separated human society into two different groups – sickly yet super-intelligent Subterraneans and healthy but weak-minded Omniterraneans – a brilliant Subter girl is tasked with fixing the broken genetic code to reunite the two groups in the next generation.

But when a newer plague turns fatal for the surface-dwelling Omnits, the only group able to reproduce (giving birth to both Subter and Omnit children), Zuzan must find a cure or humanity won’t simply remain divided, it will become extinct.

But there's more conflict at hand than a broken genetic code. The fragile connection between Subters and Omnits has frayed to the point of breaking – to the point of war – and it will take more than genius to repair; it will take heart.  

My Review

Burrowed is the debut novel from Mary Baader Kaley. It's an interesting sci-fi story, that can be enclosed in the dystopic genre, showing us an Earth in which humans don't exist as a race, and instead, due to the effects of a plague, there are two different kinds: Omniterraneans, weak of mind, but with a competent immune system; and Subterraneans, intelligent but with immunologic problems.

Our protagonist, Zuzan, is a really brilliant Subterranean, living on a burrow waiting for her graduation. Even before this moment that will get her into a new place, she has to experience difficult situations, showing that apart from being intelligent, she's really empathic. The burrow gets discontinued, and due to that, she doesn't really get a graduation, getting assigned to a new burrow, being unaware of what her Medera has planned for her.

Soon, we get to discover that a new plague is infecting the Omniterranean population, and the responsibility of solving this enigma falls on the shoulder of our protagonist, and her mates. A race against the clock that may also reveal the secret behind the division among these species.

The premise is super interesting, and the execution also works certainly well. We get enough time to understand how Zuzan thinks, and how she behaves in difficult situations, as we can see her life being extremely difficult from the start of the book; how she's built is probably the most brilliant aspect of the book. The rest of the cast is certainly interesting, taking Kleo and Ringo the biggest hit on it, something that is kinda natural, as both tend to be the ones that are more involved with Zuzan's work. Personally, I think most of the aspects of this character-driven plot worked excellent for me, with the exception of the small romantic subplot, which felt a little bit out of place.

Worldbuilding is another of the aspects I liked most, with this dystopic society, which has been forced to be split into two main groups due to the first plague. While we don't get as many details as I would like on how other burrows operate, or on how the power structures work outside of a brief description, you can certainly experience how is life there, and how Subterraneans are dealing with the fact of being immunocompromised.

The whole aspect of the plague and the subsequent virus that is attacking a new population is another one that picked my interest. I tend to be picky when a sci-fi novel involves medical themes, but I can say that Baader Kaley has done an excellent research job, going into the details; said that, it is understandable if some people find this kind of approach arid, despite being really well written.

In summary, Burrowed is a strong debut, a sci-fi novel based on an interesting premise. If you like medical thrillers, or you are a fan of dystopic novels, I think you will like Burrowed. I suspect the world can still be expanded, and I hope it gets at some point because the ending is kinda open.

The Author/s

Mary Baader Kaley

Mary Baader Kaley

Mary Baader Kaley writes stories for children and adults with quirky characters whose huge hopes and dreams drive them into impossible situations. She loves the sound of spring crickets, the colors of the fall, and shady porches in between. She spends summers healing her soul over a small Midwestern lake upon a rickety pier, while smiling into the sun. On any given day, you’ll find her laughing with family and friends, binge-watching shows, reading while sneaking bites of chocolate, or warming her bones by a campfire.