Sunday, June 3, 2012

Scardown by Elizabeth Bear - review

Elizabeth Bear
Science Fiction
cover - I think the cover of this book (and the other two in the series) is pretty good, shows a bit of the cyber-arm, the futuristic looking gun (though there's not much gun-play in this novel), the suggestion of a uniform. If I have one complaint though-and this IS a complaint-it's the skin color of the woman on the cover. Because of the cyber-arm, I'm assuming that this is Jenny Casey - who is supposed to be Indian. If there's any other "race" in her background, she's at least half Indian, which would not leave her with lily white - or rather peachy cream skin color. For some obscure reason, each of the three novels feature a pale woman on the cover.

Scardown takes off pretty much the moment Hammered ended. Jenny Casey has agreed to go back to Canada, have some pilot training and have her "wet-ware" up-graded with "new nanites", or a new version of nanites. This is supposed to take care of her increasing pain, her increasing neurological symptoms, and more. Thus the name Scardown. Down with the scars!

With the return of many of the characters from the last novel, Jenny and Gabriel begin a complicated relationship, Elspeth is still in the picture, the artificial intelligence known as Richard or Dick (Feynman - there was a REAL genious with this name! the character and the AI is based on this person) is in a few different system and growing ever larger and stronger. Valens - the slightly sinister military's debatable what his real plans are, but he's pushing for starship travel, more than one starship to colonise other planets. He sees a future that many don't want to acknowledge.  

With a return of a few of the characters in Hammered, Scardown continues the story of Jenny, Valens and the machinations of the governments.  There are plots and more plots.  It's not always clear if who the bad guy is, if indeed there really is a bad guy.  Valens is at his enigmatic possible evil best - and yet maybe he isn't quite as he seems.  The AI, Richard is growing ever stronger and with more "personality".

There is quite a bit going on in this middle book - while it's a continuation of the plots from the first leading to the ending, it's quite loaded with plots and intricate subplots of its own.  New characters are introduced and more is found out about the characters already introduced.  Jenny's wetware has been upgraded and she's doing her end, learning how to pilot the starship while trying to keep the AI's complete possiblities secret from the government and Valens.

Bear continues to write a book full of characters and subplots - there is so much going on here, that with a less capable author it could have fallen apart.  But Bear seems to be a master at juggling numerous storylines and plots, the characters all have their own personalities and flaws.  More comes to light about Jenny's past, the same with some of the other characters.  The narration style remains masterful, I enjoy the way she switches between Jenny Casey's first person narrative to the third person narrative of the other characters.

The book steadily climbs toward a tragic incident that has far-reaching consequences.  I can't express enough just how much I enjoyed this novel.  It is one of my favorite SciFi series has a mix of political intrigue, personal relationships and mystery, and science fiction storytelling that satisfies a craving I wasn't even aware that I had for this type of novel.  From the characters, to the dialogues, to the plots and subplots, to the political examples to the scientific inventiveness - this is a wonderful mixup of people and stories.  Definitely a book, and series that I will re-read and enjoy just as much the second and third time around.

Ther third and final book is Worldwired and there is quite a story coming up in it.  I loved it and I would love to read more in Jenny Casey's storyline if Elizabeth Bear would write about it.

No comments:

Post a Comment