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on April 5, 2011
Mad scientists are a standard part of science fiction. In movies, they are usually old men with funny accents, who are nonetheless brilliant. This time, the mad scientist is a beautiful young rich woman. By the end of the book, she's also pregnant, probably by her young Creole lover, a poorly educated laborer and musical genius. The word is "probably" because she has some hot moments with a South American billionaire, too. There's a lot of action in this book.

The sci fi action revolves around an intelligent synthetic liquid being, spontaneously emerging from a mass of electronic, chemical, and genetic junk dumped into the Mississippi. Somehow, it becomes alive and starts to grow and move, causing lots of harm as it goes. Everyone tries to contain or destroy it, with only our heroine trying to preserve it for the knowledge we can gain and the good it can do.

It's a very good science fiction book, with good plausible science and good characters. The writing is excellent, with vivid, strong descriptions of the scenery and events. It would make a great movie. I see Scarlett Johansen as the scientist. And someone who looks a lot like me as her young boyfriend. If only!
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on January 2, 2013
This was a book I had to read for my book club. The author has ties to Louisiana, and we focused on local authors this year. The book was well received by most of the group, but not in our top 10. It was pretty good.
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on April 19, 2013
Watermind

By M. M. Buckner

Conceptually, Watermind is an interesting idea. A mixture of sophisticated computers, electronic garbage, and toxic sludge accidentally evolving into an alien artificial being. As a story the novel doesn't really go anywhere. We don't get much insight into the creature. The writing is focused on a cast of characters that we never really connect with - mostly CJ Reilly. The style reminds me of a Hollywood horror movie at times - so much so that at one point I expected CJ to get pregnant with some sort of hybrid spawn. No, the story didn't go there but my mind did perhaps because of the omnipresent foreboding tone of the story. By the end, despite the length of the book, I felt like I had read a short story rather than a novel. Still, I would say it is a worth the read if you pick it up at a bargain price.

Spoiler Alert
This review does contain major plot points.
The prologue tells us that 144 micro-computers accidentally get washed into the a river, 119 of them end up in a mix of toxic waste and electronic garbage called Devil's Swamp. Somehow they form some kind of neural net.

The story is mostly told from the POV of CJ Reilly- a woman who is working on the clean up in the swamp. After the swamp ices over in the middle of the hot summer, she makes a miraculous discovery when she analysis a sample from the toxic sludge that turns out to be pure water. Water pure enough to drink.
We then meet Roman Sacony, CEO of Quimicron. A friend of CJ's late father, he becomes involved with containing the newly found entity after the death of one of the workers.

CJ is given the job of identifying the pond fluid which she quickly identifies as an emulsified colloid but further explanation of its strange properties elude her. They catalogue a cornucopia of electronic bits and pieces and verify that the colloid produces pure water but don't get much farther than that in their study of it. Eventually they dub it "watermind" of the book's title. CJ is determined to use it to revolutionize the world as method for generating clean water. The corporate interests are only interesting in keeping it from spreading.

The story gets bogged down at times in the strange language choices and the fact that nothing much actually happens. At one point the author writes "Her womb suffused with crampy heat." I have no idea what that was supposed mean.

CJ pushes to communicate with the watermind using music. We never see things from the creatures POV but it seems to respond. Meanwhile competing interests proceed with research on how to destroy the creature instead. Despite their best efforts to keep it contained the watermind escapes into the Mississippi.
As the story goes public, everyone starts to panic. Meanwhile the watermind starts growing and evolving as it travels down stream.

The panicky battle against this unknown `menace' reads almost like a Hollywood movie script, right down to the ending which is reminiscent of classic monster and alien science fiction movies.

Spoiler alert:

Salt water of the ocean killed it in the end.
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on September 6, 2012
This is the 2nd of Buckner's works that I have read. I found both plot and prose to be riveting from the start. She has established a point of view from the fallible heroine that is fun to follow. I highly recommend Watermind. As a matter of fact, I already have done that directly to many of my friends.
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on January 15, 2014
Every so often I come across a book which stays with me long after I put it down. This is one. It takes an idea we don't think about- all our technological garbage that we don't give a second thought- and combines it with a scifi/ thriller story line. It makes for a crazy ride which makes one think twice about what happens to all this junk we toss aside.
In my own personal rating system, 5 stars means I have the urge to stop random people in the streets and tell them they must read this book.
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on August 31, 2009
This book had an interesting premise behind it, but it was not well executed. One issue I had with this book was structural. The transition between the dialog and thoughts of the different characters really isn't that smooth. I'd be reading along and with no warning they'd suddenly be talking about another character.

Another thing that bothered me was from a sci-fi/technical standpoint. They'd mention all these items, technological and otherwise, that the Watermind/mote computers would pass in the river on its way to Louisiana, but never explained how most of those items related back to its make-up and/or evolution.

This lack of detail extended to the dialog as well. It was just enough to keep the story moving forward, but not enough to give us any real insight into the characters. Why was Max's ex-wife given primary custody of their daughter? What was the whole thing between CJ and her father? You never do find out. This, plus the whole pacing of keeping things moving down the river, made the story read more like a TV or movie script than a book.

My advice is to skip this book.
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on July 16, 2014
The law of averages say that half the books published are worse than average. Since the probabilities on a run one side or the other only start with the second entry, two bad uns in a row is just 50/50.

What we have here is bad Crichton. Crich wrote plenty of bad Crichton, so i guess this must be bad bad Crichton.

The science part of the MacGuffin is that a bunch of small networked sensor chips get washed into the industrial wastes of bayou country and start to form a gigantic silicon/algae/water quasi intelligent blob with amazing and controllable chemical abilities.

Unfortunately the author M. M. Buckner wings it whenever it comes to real world stuff like scuba diving, people, finance, CEOs, and science.

As an example of sheer technical laziness, apparently they'd try all sorts of fancy approaches before starting a pump to pump 8 tons of water into a lagoon because of the fuel cost (p116). The pump in my creek takes 1600 W to run it, 2 hp, and can shift 4 tonnes an hour up a 100 ft hill. So running a generator we might use a couple of gallons of fuel. Tops.

Anyway the technical problems are the least of it. The two main characters are so petulant and unbelievable that this reader had zero interest in their actions.

This really is witless SF at its worst. I see from wiki that she claims she writes Hard SF. Not in this book. One classic line "The molten ice moved south as it always does". Well madam, in the hard science world we call molten ice,water, and it moves downhill rather more often than it moves south.
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on November 11, 2008
Although her future seemed bright, CJ Reilly dropped out of MIT graduate school. She heads south with hopes of cleansing her disturbed mind. In sweltering but polluted Devil's Pond, Louisiana she finds a strange phenomena that should not be there: ice. After testing a sample, CJ believes she has found a magical elixir to save the water supply; the ice purifies water.

However, the ice turns even more mysterious when she observes it react to music and display locomotion skills. When the ice kills scientist Roman Saxony, CJ reconsiders her belief she will be a world hero. Instead she needs to destroy the metamorphosing ice that has "waded" into the Mississippi before it destroys the world.

An engaging cautionary science fiction warning people to watch how they dispose of their discards (in this case electronic, but easily extrapolates to drugs in the water systems and nuclear energy byproduct waste, etc). In some ways the ice seems like the Blob; however unlike both of the films that stars heroes, none of the humans especially CJ is heroic as everyone seems to have their own agenda. Fans will enjoy touring Louisiana with the WATERMIND host.

Harriet Klausner
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on August 3, 2013
Most of my problems with this book stem from the fact that the characters are either cardboard cutouts or completely unlikable. CJ has problems with her father: what are they? Why do we care? Do they in any way excuse her behavior? Reading so much from Sacony's perspective was painful. He is a thoroughly unsympathetic character whose sole motivation was looking out for number one. It boggles the mind why so many supposedly smart women find him so attractive. The rest of the characters have little to no depth at all and exist merely to advance the plot in some minute way or provide something for the mains to interact with. Too little wood behind too many arrows.
All that aside, the premise is similar to David Brin's "Earth," the exception being that Earth is good. The amount of melodramatic "But it's alive!" "Your science must be wrong!" "We need a new definition of life!" "That's preposterous, it's evil!" beat that small benefit into a pulp.
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on January 18, 2010
I don't really understand the critical reviews because I find this book to be of very high quality, intelligently written, and fun to read, with an excellent story and interesting characters. My friends and family all loved it, too, even those who are not science fiction readers. "Watermind" is a cut above ordinary genre fiction, and the author has won several awards for her work, including the prestigious Philip K. Dick Award. Give it a try if you like great characters and a gripping story in your science fiction.
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