Monday, March 9, 2009

Emissaries From The Dead, by Adam-Troy Castro.

Eos Books, 2008.

Andrea Cort, a cyncial, anti-social woman with a traumatic background, is sent to the human outpost in the Habitat world of One-One-One to investigate the apparent murder of Christina Santiago, a cynical, anti-social woman with a traumatic background. Her investigation leads her into contact with a number of people with traumatic backgrounds, most of whom are anti-social to one degree or another. Just before she arrives, there is a another murder, this time of a woman who emphatic, open, and eager to share with everyone else – and therefore a definite irritant to all the cynical, anti-social people with traumatic backgrounds.

Andrea also meets Gibbs, the mediocre bureaucrat who runs the human outpost with a middle-managing fist, the enigmatic Peyrin Lastogne with no background, Skye and Oscin Porrinyard, a physically and mentally perfect duo despite their traumatic childhoods, and the great AISource, a nation of artificial intelligences who created the world of One-One-One and the multitude of lifeforms within.

The book has received many positive reviews and is a nominee for the Phillip K. Dick award, but it didn’t work for me. I found it superficially complex but shallow beneath the surface, much like the stage set for a theatrical play. The habitat for One-One-One has several biosystems within it, layered like an onion, but the story is confined to the only one suitable for human life, the uppermost layer. There is one kind of plant, one kind of sentient animal, and one kind of pollinating fly – and none of the intertwined complexities which make up ecologies on earth. A large team of human scientists study this biosphere – but what do they study? This question is never answered by the researchers who, unlike their counterparts elsewhere in the world, seem rather reluctant to chatter on about their work.

Nor do they chatter on about the lives of each other. No rumors, no gossip, so speculation, no fantasies. The man who seems to have no background brings out no curiosity in the others. This is not a normal research team.

But as I said, many people have found this book to be wonderful. I didn’t, but that’s just me. If you like heavily cynical people and aren’t into Ecology, you may find this the best book you’ve ever read. It’s definitely a YMMV book.

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