Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Jan 20, 2014

Fragment and Pandemonium

This novel by Warren Fahy is an enjoyable little bioscience romp.  It's fun, it's exciting, and it's pure fluff.

I was a little surprised about the fluff part.  In a way it's kind of refreshing--techno-thrillers often go in for nasty cynicism in a big way.  Fragment, on the other hand, can't even seem to take its villain particularly seriously.  Heck, people get killed right and left and it's just not that big of a deal.

Fragment is a story about an island that was isolated from contact with the rest of the world so long ago that it developed a radically different ecosystem that is nothing but "weed" species--virulent, explosive species that are so successful in out-competing every other species on earth that they could destroy the world.  Scary stuff.

So, why is it so fluffy?  Well, for one thing there's basically no characterization.  There's supposed to be a romance of sorts going on, but it feels like it was attached to the novel with a stapler.  The non-human creatures are better characterized than the humans, who receive a couple of lines of bare description.  I honestly couldn't tell you anything about what the female protagonist is supposed to look like, much less her personality.  Oh, wait, she does have some sort of nightmares about her mother, who was a famous naturalist killed by a jellyfish.  But this is tacked-on, too.  It has no significance to the events of the story and more or less gets abandoned.

The science is, for the most part, similarly fluffy.  Oh, it's not BAD, and there are some interesting hypotheses there, but that's what they are.  Hypotheses.  Science doesn't consist of smart people who've read a bunch of books sitting in a room and spouting off wild notions on the basis of a few examples and a lot of guesswork.  It consists of methodical people gathering data and testing those notions.  I'll grant you they don't really get a chance due to the murderterror wildlife, but all this action focus just makes it fluffier.

The coup de fluff, of course, is when Fahy brings in the President of the United States and, of course, a nuke.  Still, I enjoyed reading it.  Just don't expect to be blown away by any degree of depth.

Pandemonium, the second book in the series, kind of feels like a Bioshock homage.  I'm not really sure why there needed to be a second book.  There weren't really a lot of loose ends that needed to be tied up, so it really furthers the comic-book feel of the whole thing.  Like the Joker in Batman comics, the scary murderterror wildlife keeps escaping and coming back for more.

It's even weirder because Pandemonium is supposed to be set in yet another weird isolated ecosystem--and it gets almost no screen time apart from being a colorful backdrop.  I'm not sure this was actually a bad decision--at least it's not a full retread of the first novel.  The non-human characters actually have some interesting characterization and are far more interesting and enjoyable than almost all of the humans.

So, some fun, well-written action novels here.

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