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.