Wednesday, January 4, 2012

100 Books #1 - Jo Anderton's DEBRIS

Like a lot of Angry Robot's offerings, Joe Anderton's Debris is kind of hard to categorize. Set in a strange, possibly Russian, city of the future, in which scarcity seems to be a thing of the past, Debris seems at first glance to be another nano-technological fantasy of the kind Charles Stross does such a good job of persuading us could someday be real.

But something altogether weirder is going on here. It is not nano robots generating energy, making things, or maintaining things, but meticulously governed and weirdly personable subatomic particles. To a skilled "pion-binder" (for such these particles are called – pions are real subatomic particles that play a role in the strong nuclear force. And thereby have I reached the limits of my demonstrable particle physics knowledge), the particles are "friends" that can be persuaded to solve the seemingly infinite variety of problems.

All of this sounds very science fictional so far, doesn't it? And I suppose science fictional is how it stays – but toward the end of Debris, I found myself rolling my eyes just a bit, as Anderton fell into the trap that so many sci-fi fantasists don't even seem to care about avoiding. For yes, what I can only characterize as the supernatural rears its annoying head. Sigh.

We tour all of this alongside the heroine who starts the story at the top of the city's society, rich and respected, free to take on only the most interesting work, but who is yanked suddenly and unfairly to its bottom. This is a common but effective way to explore a society, as long as protagonist doesn't spend too much time whining. Fortunately, our heroine is too busy trying to figure out what happened to complain about it too much. The mystery of what happened to her and why is tantalizing, and the villains are truly frightening, reminiscent of Firefly's "two by two, hands blue" chillers.

The mysteries are only partly solved at the end of this yet another first volume of yet another trilogy, and so I wasn't entirely satisfied with it. And I'm somewhat up in the air about whether, when the sequel does come along, I will come along with it. I suspect a lot will depend on my mood, and how desperate I am to make my numbers for this second attempt at 100 books in a calendar year

I have a lot of good stuff on deck.

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