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Neptune's Brood Hardcover – July 2, 2013
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Stross’ novel Saturn’s Children (2008) took place in a twenty-third century devoid of humans but replete with androids, including a professional sexual companion with no more biological customers left to service. This equally inventive follow-up occupies the same universe, albeit thousands of years later, featuring a new metahuman protagonist named Krina Alizond-114, whose consciousness can be beamed across light-years of space into newly fabricated bodies. When her sister, Ana, unaccountably goes missing, Krina sets out for Ana’s last known home base—the water world of Shin-Tethys—but she doesn’t get far before her ship is seized by pirates. While their captain, Count Rudi, chivalrously offers to ferry Krina to Shin-Tethys in order to meet Ana, his real motive is shadier: capturing a fabled and powerful monetary instrument called the Atlantis Carnet, of which Ana and Krina are part-owners. Readers new to Stross’ densely packed prose and profusion of ideas may want to switch to lighter fare. His many fans, however, will find the author’s usual wealth of futuristic scenarios and technological extrapolation enthralling. --Carl Hays
Praise for Charles Stross
“Where Charles Stross goes today, the rest of science fiction will follow tomorrow.”—Gardner Dozois
“Stross sizzles with ideas.”—The Denver Post
“Charles Stross may be the science fiction field’s most exciting writer.”—SFRevu
“A new kind of future requires a new breed of guide—someone like Stross.”—Popular Science
“The act of creation seems to come easily to Charles Stross…[He] is peerless at dreaming up devices that could conceivably exist in six, sixty, or six hundred years’ time.”—The New York Times
“Stross’s brand of gonzo techno-speculation makes hallucinogens obsolete.”—Cory Doctorow, New York Times bestselling author of Pirate Cinema
Top customer reviews
This is a post human universe, although fragile humans still exist. But most of the sentient universe is inhabited by post human constructs made from biologically influenced but created constructs that have started to fill the niches that would be otherwise inhabited by evolved life. Forms that were, at one time, created, have evolved themselves and created whole ecosystems, which is another fascinating theme in the book.
Because so much of the books deals with the extrapolation of ideas, some readers may find that the plot is slower than some science fiction books. After all, the main character is a forensic accountant. For those who love the interplay of concepts that evolve in the story there will be a great deal to enjoy.
Stross has always been sort of a hit-or-miss writer for me. I've despised just as many of his books as I've enjoyed. This is one in the enjoyable column. Here, the appropriate balance has been struck between the narrative and the futurism. The transhumanist elements of the setting are well-integrated with the character development, rather than being ostentatious grafts of gee-whizzery.
This is overall a good piece of SF, smart, and fun. I recommend it even if you don't care too much for Charles Stross.
The mermaids part is really kind of a sideline, apart from exploring some of the practical realities of underwater nations (which I found to be a pretty fascinating read all on its own, honestly). The financial intrigue sounds a bit incredulous on the surface -- the book's summary of "a lost financial instrument of unbelievable value -- capable of bringing down entire civilizations" isn't actually false, but it reads as pretty hyperbolic. The reality, though, is actually a lot more intriguing, once you get into the pages of the book. I won't spoil it by listing it in exhaustive detail here, but I'll say this -- as someone in the financial industry, the constant themes of hypercapitalization, debt, differentiating currencies as a means to cope with a world lacking FTL travel, all rang very true and believable to me.
The worldbuilding, in short, is fantastic.
Krina, as the protagonist, is perfectly positioned. In speculative fiction particularly, there is always a difficult balance to be struck between giving a primary POV character who can introduce the reader to the world (but then winding up as either the overplayed "everyman in a new world" trope or coming off as hopelessly naive to the realities of the world they themselves already inhabit) or having the POV narrated by someone who knows exactly what's going on, but then doesn't give the reader the same sense of discovery and dramatic uncertainty, because they already know what's going on.
Krina, as a native to her world and perfectly well-versed on things like the complexity of the slow/medium/fast dollar economy, is in her own description a "nun-accountant" -- in other words, she's just figuring out what to do and how when it comes to the realities of being smack in the middle of interstellar high intrigue. She's the "everyman in a new world" not in that she's a 21st-century observer suddenly catapulted into the future, but rather that she's someone who has been living a cloistered, academic life where her own person was never in danger and most of her contact was with old records -- and now abruptly thrust into gallivanting across the galaxy, encountering assassins and mad (or simply corrupt and conniving) churchmen, and piratical insurance representatives.
Her tendency to "nerd out" briefly on the things she knows well -- financial scams, the complex economy of a galactic civilization without FTL travel, the academic climate of a multiplanetary society without the means to regularly bring all its intellectuals together in a meaningful way -- paints a realistic picture of someone with a great deal of specialist knowledge and the desire to share it, while serving the more prosaic function of introducing the reader to the way Stross' world functions.
All in all, I highly recommend this book; it's a fun read, especially if you're into finance.
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