Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Worldwired by Elizabeth Bear

*Some Spoilers Ahead*

So we come full circle, back around the book in this series I read first, which closes it off again. A neat little loop. I am glad to have gone through them all in order now, although I remember enjoying this very much the first time I read it, even without the context.

The first time, I was thrown right into a world reeling from a human-caused ecological catastrophe. This time, I got to see it coming, and watch the impact. It made me cry. This book is all about the aftermath - of ecological catastrophe, of death, of politics after the world has been irrevocably changed. It's about whether or not your grief and anger mire you smack in the middle of your own skull, or whether or not you continue to reach outside.

I'm trying to avoid spoilers, but it's very difficult. Be forewarned from this part in that there may be some.

So, the disaster was the deliberate impact of a meteorite into Toronto, devastating the area, killing millions. The Chinese sent it, although they're claiming it was "rogue factions." The Canadian Prime Minister is bound and determined to see them pay in a court of law, through the United Nations. China is trying just as hard to block that, and to accuse Canada of crimes in return for the infection of the biosphere with nanotechnology, under the control of the AI Richard Feynman. (The only way to mitigate the atmospheric impact of the meteorite, and purchased at great and painful cost.)

Jenny, and the little family she has amassed around herself over the last two books, watch from space. She and Elspeth try to nurse Gabe through the worst of his grief. (We're never explicitly told whether or not Jenny and Elspeth's relationship is sexual as well, but I'm not sure it matters one way or the other. They're close, they're family, they all love each other.) Genie, Gabe's daughter, hovers around the edges of the station, missing the person who created the void she now has to live with.

It's that emphasis on the simultaneous strength and fragility of family that holds me the most, although the story is very good. The sections at the UN, when Jenny and her fellow pilots testify against the Chinese government, are absolutely riveting. But I like the moments where Elspeth nudges Jenny and Jenny hugs her back gently even more. So much is done with so little.

It's also a story of first contact, and writing all this makes me realize how many stories are packed in here. There's no time wasted, and it's all well-knit together, but at times it makes your head spin, being an observer to not one matter of world-wide importance, but several. At least the whiplash it gave me at times was pleasant?

At any rate, I'm not sure I have a lot new to say. I enjoyed all three books in this series, and I'm very glad I finally read them in order. Elizabeth Bear is an author I enjoy very much, and I'm glad to have read some of her earliest efforts. They aren't perhaps perfect books, but they are so strong and interesting. Most of all, Jenny Casey is an indelible character.

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