Science Fiction Book Review


(2006) Keith Brooke, Pyr, US$25.00, hrdbk, 304pp, ISBN 1-59102-333-3


In the far future runaway nano- and bio-technology has infested the whole Earth. Mutation has become the norm and humans gather in village enclaves to keep change at bay. The territory between settlements contain animals that are not wholly animal, and plants that are not wholly plant, not to mention bio-AIs that are sometimes worshipped and sometimes feared. When a young man's, Flint's, sister Amber goes missing during a village festival he knows he must travel through the wildlands between villages in order to find her. On his journey he encounters many dangers, including the fevers brought on by contamination and the antipathy and greed of others of his own kind.

Brooke is a well-thought of author who has been writing since the early nineties with titles such as Keepers of the Peace, Expatria and Expatria Incorporated; he is also the co-editor of infinity plus one and infinity plus two (with Nick Gevers), based on the website he launched in 1997. He has written many short stories and a recent collection would be Head Shots (2001). He is admired by authors as diverse as Stephen Baxter, Michael Swanwick, Peter F Hamilton and Jeff Vandermeer. All of which I tell you so that you understand that (not for the first time) I'm in a minority of one in not liking this book. I was bored throughout, did not care a fig for Flint, his sister, or his whole world. The 'point' of the book - change is inevitable and to be welcomed - is something I readily sympathise with and endorse, but this fantasy-masquerading-as-sf is a ploddingly dull example of how to get that point across. I guess one of the things that nagged at me all the way through was just how little the author seems to know about genetics and molecular biology in general. Specifically the rates of change that are credible within a single organism and, perhaps more importantly, the action of selection pressures in producing stable forms in 'the wild'. Brooke seems to envisage a world of random and chaotic change, where anything and everything goes, rather than a world of generational change, with checks and balances and, ultimately, some stability. On the converse, and to give credit where credit is due, it is all too believable that the human villages would be a hotbed of conservative stagnation, places where change is feared with an almost religious zealotry. As I say, I'm probably in a minority of one here, but I'm just not a fan of worlds where catastrophy seems almost automatically to mean 'humankind returns to an existence based on pre-technological eras' (of course, for some, that is the very definition of 'catastrophy' in SF terms, but for me it just displays a lack of imagination). So, while I cannot find it in myself to recommend this book, I'm happy for you to take other people's word for it that it's pretty good, and then you can make your own mind up.

Tony Chester

For a different take on Gentopia then check out environmental biologist Jonathan's review.

[Up: Fiction Reviews Index | SF Author: Website Links | Home Page: Concatenation]

[One Page Futures Short Stories | Recent Site Additions | Most Recent Seasonal Science Fiction News]

[Updated: 07.01.15 | Contact | Copyright | Privacy]