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Accidental Creatures Paperback – October 6, 2000

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; Reprint edition (October 6, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312875606
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312875602
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 3.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,492,128 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Anne Harris's second novel welcomes readers to the Detroit of the future--a city of extreme poverty and extravagant wealth, were every life is overshadowed by the megalithic biotech corporation GeneSys. With the rise of maglev transportation and the death of the auto industry, the name Motor City has become an anachronism. There are no jobs except GeneSys jobs. One can either pass an exam and obtain an office job at GeneSys headquarters or work in the dangerous biopolymer-growing vats in Vattown. Chango Chichelski, a sport (a mutant from exposure to lethal growth medium in the vats) with a passionate love of the Detroit of her grandmother's stories, chooses instead to fall through the cracks. Chango lives in an ancient motor car and spends her time haunting (and committing to memory) buildings slated for demolition.

Her life changes when she rescues, and then falls in love with, a fanged and four-armed sport named Helix. Helix is the adopted daughter of Hector Martin, the brilliant but emotionally unstable head scientist at GeneSys. Weary of her isolated life, Helix flees into Vattown, intending to become a vat diver. But her plan is opposed by Chango, whose union-organizer sister Ada died after contact with the vat's growth medium, and by the vat divers themselves, who refuse to accept a sport within their ranks.

Accidental Creatures is an action-packed tale full of intrigue, betrayals, and flashy characters. Interestingly, the sports of the Vattown underworld--drug dealers, junk artists, and healers--look positively normal compared to GeneSys's corporate denizens, who scream, cry, fight, and lie outrageously to retain or advance their positions in the corporate hierarchy.

Harris's writing style is not for everybody (for instance, readers allergic to comma splices should approach with caution). But for the less grammatically persnickety, Accidental Creatures may prove to be a rewarding tale of outsiders and identity. --Eddy Avery

From Publishers Weekly

Despite a strong beginning and initially sympathetic characters in interesting relationships, Harris's second novel (after The Nature of Smoke, 1996) is derailed by undigested psychological material, and winds up as an uncomfortable adhesion of fantasy and hard SF with elements of disaster movie and a barely coherent metaphysics. Harris convincingly creates a future Detroit in which car manufacturing has been supplanted by a biotextile industry. Now people drive maglevs, sit in living, self-cleaning chairs and watch interactive soap operas. Vat divers brave deadly sickness to harvest materials for manipulative employer GeneSys. After Ada organizes a successful strike against the company, she dies under mysterious circumstances. Her sister Chango wants nothing to do with vat diving, but she falls in love with a four-armed woman named Helix with a strange affinity for the vats. Halfway through the book, Harris switches genres and reveals in a few summary pages that Helix has been spawned by Lilith, a creature biologically engineered for vat diving who has taken on the qualities of a primeval goddess and rebelled against GeneSys, now understood to be a sort of rival god. Thereafter, it's one extravagantly ad hoc turn after another as the plot rushes in a direction quite at odds with the biotechnological buildup and the social realism of the opening. There may be a couple of good novels?one fantasy, one SF?embedded within, but shoehorning them together has diminished both.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Paul H. Giampetroni on May 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As a long-time resident of the Motor City, it made me proud to read the work of Anne Harris. Less abstract than William Gibson, Harris does her homework when it comes to carrying on the cyberpunk anthem. Reality based near future concepts such as cell-animate tattoos and post economic apocalyptic cityscapes make this a must read for sci-fi fans. Detroit is lovingly portrayed as the industrial juggernaut trying to cope with its gentrification. Boundary issues, class struggle, and corporate rape are as entrenched in the mid twenty first century as in the mid twentieth century. The image of Southwest Detroit as "Vattown", where biopolymer vats spew forth organic based synthetics at the degradation of the working class hits home. This book is clearly a coming of age for Harris, and gives the reader a clear sense of the struggles we, as the first industrialized city in the first industrialized country, will continue to face. Gender issues are dealt with in a mature manner with respect to both sides, and none of the insipid "Grrrl" axes to grind. All of Harris's characters stand on their own merit regardless of sex, sexual preference, or race.
I am looking forward to Harris's next installment with great anticipation.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By YouSerper on August 23, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Accidental Creatures is an interesting, well paced sci-fi thriller with some actual "science". The main characters are not only well crafted but original, sexual and beautiful. Yes, beautiful. Images created on paper of the four-armed Helix and that little brat Chango are quite unforgettable. Self-serving antangonists grow from within the story and bio-growth medium goo, where divers risk their pathetic lives to earn a living. The end goes a little too far with the whole evil corporation thing - but, a little too far can be fun. And it is.
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Format: Paperback
Here, Anne Harris has created a very impressive and compelling near-future, both in science and setting. Her exercises in future genetics, biotechnology, and computer networks are outstandingly creative and plausible, and this novel has some great insights into the potential dangers to human society from supposedly helpful consumer products. Meanwhile, Harris has nailed a depressingly likely future dystopia for her native Detroit, where that city's history of fractious labor relations and blue-collar struggle has evolved into a system of corporate control by one soulless industrial juggernaut that literally sees workers as disposable commodities. The characters here are also well-drawn and intriguing. This applies especially to the fascinating Helix and Lilith, great post-human creations that illustrate humanity in quite unexpected ways. One issue with Harris' writing is a rather awkward sense of pacing and an uneven use of flashbacks, though her themes on gender issues and feminism in this novel are not as heavy-handed as some critics have suggested (though this is a bigger concern in her later book *Inventing Memory*). There are also some minor plot holes connected to certain characters' motives, especially the villain and his lackey. But what makes this novel such a great read is the combination of strong science, a truly believable near-future society, and great characters who are both weird enough to qualify for dark fantasy and empathetic enough to really connect with the reader. [~doomsdayer520~]
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Format: Paperback
It's future Detroit, the automobile industry is rendered obsolete, biotechnology is the new commerce and the leading manufacturer is GeneSys, the world's leading producer of an artificial, organic fabric called biopolymer. This corporation also creates (and exploits) a mutant species called the "tetras"; humanoid vat divers who can live in the highly toxic liquid vats down in "Vattown" and harvest the biopolymer grown to meet the material needs of America and the world.

Strongly centering on biotechnology, this story is loaded with cyberpunk elements: designer drugs "blast", the obligatory evil megalithic corporation which overshadows the socioeconomic underclass it creates, involves genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, politics, labour unions and people (and some not really human people) existing on the fringes of a Vattown society of endless poverty, but it's also a futuristic mystery and a queer romance drawing together several coming-of-age stories, including the two main characters - scavenger Chango who survives by doing odd jobs and lives out of her car and Helix, a young, sheltered four-armed woman adopted by a research scientist who works for GeneSys and who finds herself irresistibly, inexplicably drawn to the vats...

This was a well-paced and very passionate storytelling of an interesting and original science fiction mystery set in a cyberpunk atmosphere and I really enjoyed reading it. Recommended for anyone who enjoys elements of mutants, queer romance, justice and corporate resistance!
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Format: Paperback
An old adage recommends that you should write what you know. Perhaps heeding this advice, Anne Harris has used her hometown of Detroit as a backdrop in both her debut novel, THE NATURE OF SMOKE, and in her sophomore effort, ACCIDENTAL CREATURES. The Motor City of ACCIDENTAL CREATURES, however, is somewhat different from its present incarnation. GM, Ford and Chrysler, are gone, replaced by the aptly named GeneSys as the major corporate presence. Detroit is now famous for the valuable biopolymers produced there. Instead of factory workers assembling cars, the city now is home to an unfortunate group of exploited "vat divers", who physically harvest biopolymers from huge vats filled with a toxic growth medium. Although the names, products and employees have changed, one thing remains the same--corporations still focus on the bottom line, in the process making the lives of their employees miserable.

The two chief characters of ACCIDENTAL CREATURES are a thief named Chango, and the woman who later becomes her lover, the mutant female Helix. Chango scrabbles to survive on the edge of Detroit's mainstream. She longs to make big money as a vat diver, even though the job killed her older sister Ada, who may have been murdered in retaliation for her union organizing activities. Chango meets the innocent Helix and is immediately taken with her, due to her unique appearance. Even in a society accustomed to aberrations (years of vat diving has spawned a number of grotesque birth defects), the four armed, fanged Helix stands out.

Raised by GeneSys research scientist Hector Martin, a doting father determined to protect her from her dangerous past, Helix has until now had very little experience with the real world.
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