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Thursday, September 22, 2011

"Debris" By Jo Anderton (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

Official Jo Anderton Website
Order Debris HERE

INTRODUCTION: When I saw the blurb below for Debris in the Angry Robot fall 2011 lineup, I was intrigued, so I took a fast look when I got the e-arc from the publisher. At that very short glance, I thought "I've seen this story hundreds of times before and this does not stand out", but the first person voice of the novel unexpectedly stayed with me, so some days later I got back to the novel and once I opened it, I had to read it before I could move on to something else.
Debris is advertised as the first book in the Veiled Worlds trilogy.

"Tanyana is among the highest ranking in her far-future society – a skilled pionner, able to use a mixture of ritual and innate talent to manipulate the particles that hold all matter together. But an accident brings her life crashing down around her ears. She is cast down amongst the lowest of the low, little more than a garbage collector. But who did this to her, and for what sinister purpose? Her quest to find out will take her to parts of the city she never knew existed, and open the door to a world she could never have imagined. "

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Debris has been a surprisingly entertaining book that took over my reading a bit unexpectedly. All because of the compelling narration from the main heroine, showing once again that when first person narration works, it really does so.

As mentioned above, the storyline is very standard at least in the first half of the novel - well off, high achiever but from a family that is not really important, Tanyana, a respected professional is set up to spectacularly and expensively fail in an important task and is thrown out of her job, so she has to start doing some nasty low-level work instead. There she meets a crew of oddballs, tough, rough but ultimately likeable, and from then on she presumably works towards getting her revenge, finding the dark secrets that her dismissal covered etc - you've seen it I bet many times either in sff or in thrillers/crime...

The setup is covered in the blurb above and it has two main characteristics: urban action and a far future technology that allows people with the right talents and training to manipulate matter at its basic level. While considering the second part of the novel, there is a case for considering Debris as fantasy, especially that the novel focuses on people, their interactions and abilities rather than on technology, its ethos is clearly modern and science fictional, based on rationality and technology however advanced and unexplained, with the backward looking and conservative elements associated with fantasy - destined ones, bloodlines, etc - missing.

So the strengths of the novel are in the voice, the characters - both the heroine and the supporting cast - and the mysteries of the universe. There is action, romance, some twists and the story ends at a good point while I really want the sequel and further adventures of Tanyana and her friends.

Another aspect I enjoyed about Debris, was its fast moving style that flows well on the page and compelled me to turn the pages once I got hooked by the narrator's voice:

“Enough of this,” I told the pions. My pions. Stern, but kind, I was a mother, a teacher, a firm hand. “We have a job to do. Enough.”

But they couldn’t hear me, or wouldn’t. So I approached them, balancing on hot steel beams wet with condensation. I reached up to the closest finger bone, placed my hand against its stretching, writhing not-quite-metal-anymore form so the pions in me and the pions in it could touch, could mingle.


But then, only then, so connected to the finger bone, so focused, did I see them.

Pions, yes, but not like any pions I had never known. Red, painfully red, and buried so deep inside reality that even the collective skill in the building site below hadn’t seen them. When I tried to communicate with them they burned like tiny suns and heat washed over me, and anger, such a terrible tearing anger I could feel from my head to my chest and deep, deep inside me. In my own pion systems."

Overall, Debris (A+) is a fascinating sff adventure that grabs you from the first page and does not let go till the end, delivering a tale of fall and redemption as narrated by a very intriguing heroine. One of my highly recommended novels of 2011 for which the sequel has become another read on receive book.


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