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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Debris

Debris

She can control pions, the building blocks of matter, shaping them into new forms using ritual gestures and techniques. The rewards are great, and she is one of most highly regarded people in the city. But that was before the “accident”.

Stripped of her powers, bound inside a bizarre powersuit, she finds herself cast down to the very lowest level of society. Powerless, penniless and scarred, Tanyana must adjust to a new life collecting “debris”, the stuff left behind by pions. But as she tries to find who has done all of this to her, she also starts to realize that debris is more important than anyone could guess.

Debris is a stunning new piece of Science Fantasy, which draws in themes from Japanese manga, and classic Western SF and Fantasy to create this unique, engrossing debut from the very exciting young author Jo Anderton.

The world of Debris is a fantastic place. I think the author did a fantastic job of creating this world without overloading us with information all at once. I did take it upon myself to look up the definition of a pion. For the record, a pion is:  a meson that is a combination of up and down quarks and antiquarks, that may be positive, negative, or neutral, and that has a mass about 270 times that of the electron (from Merriam-Webster). Basically, it’s a really small bit of energy, which is what you get from the book anyway.

The entire book is very cleverly imagined. It’s the most original sci fi/fantasy story I’ve read in a long time. It’s a world where energy – little bits of energy – is everything. The worldbuilding elements are all there. There is a lot of description in a lot of points, but it is not burdensome. We see the world as Tanyana does; we follow her every step up of the way from her fall and the lost of her power. When Tanyana loses her ability to see or manipulate that energy, the world goes dark, to a certain extent. Things like paper and gas lamps are nearly unheard of among higher circles. Only those who can’t see the energy – can’t see pions – use those sorts of things. While there is a lot of description in certain parts, there are sometimes where there is not enough description. I think it was a bit unbalanced, there were chapters where I wished the circumstances were better described, and still other chapters where they were described far too well. It was well done and clever enough that this didn't bother me as much as it might have in another book.

I’m going to assume that Tanyana was not supposed to be likeable in the beginning. Sometimes, I would feel sorry for her and I would wish her better luck, but then the very next page and I’d change my mind. She’s selfish and she believes she deserves better treatment than the entire rest of  the population. Tanyana was skilled, she was the best there was, and she lost it all. She was used to being treated better for what she could do, now she has to learn how to prove herself for who she truly was. She grows toward the end of the book, just as a character should. At the beginning, she is insistent that no one could possibly know or understand her. I mean, how in the world could these people possibly know what happened to her? I wouldn’t suppose that there’s something like gossip in her world? If there is, she seems to think she’s above it. By the end, she is more willing to understand. By the end, Tanyana has formed a bond with the people she never would have looked at before and was willing to fight for them, as we see in the final pages of this book. I found that I enjoyed watching her journey from rich snob to understanding debris collector. She learns throughout the book, exactly as a good character should. At the end of the book, I appreciate her journey and I'm excited to see her grow more in the next one.

The book was captivating. It not only bought my attention but it also earned it. Except for the slow beginning, there wasn’t a moment where I didn’t want to flip to the next page. Most of this book was read during my breaks at work. I hate taking breaks because I hate not doing anything, it’s just a character flaw, but this book made me look forward to my breaks. It made me wish they were longer so I could read more. I loved that there was no dumping of information in the book. There were things in the book that were never exactly explained, they simply had to be discovered or inferred. Other things were explained later as they were explained to Tanyana. It was very well done, though, and I never really felt confused or lost in the book.

There were a few things about the book that bothered me. First was the unanswered questions. So many questions were raised in the process of this novel and only a few were answered or sort of explained. I suppose thats what the sequel is for, but now I'm concerned that this will turn into an infodump in the next book. I felt like the promise of this novel wasn't particularly fulfilled within the pages of this book, but I guess I had originally assumed it was standalone. I guess we'll see with the sequel. Part of me wishes it was a standalone novel, if simply for the fact that I generally tend to prefer standalone against series. I also didn't appreciate the abundance of sex scenes in the novel. Ok, so I use abundance a bit liberally, but my point remains: there was no point. They served no purpose and did nothing to push the plot along. Nevermind the moral issue of it for a minute, there was no reason for them. Even the romance itself approached too quickly for me, although that was a little more forgivable. The romance itself helped to push the plot along, it made sense for Tanyana and where she was at that time. The sex didn't. I think it was just an unnecessary plot point and could have very well been excluded.

Over all, a great debut novel from Jo Anderton. I’m looking forward to seeing more from her in the future – especially a certain book two coming out next year – and I definitely think she has a lot of potential as a science fiction author.

I received a eBook review copy of Debris from the publisher, Angry Robot. Debris comes out in October 2011. See the publisher site for more information.

Rating: 8 - Excellently Done. I wavered on the edge of 9, but settled for 8. There was enough that bothered me that I couldn't give it a 9, but the novel was great and the series definitely has potential.

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