Sunday, November 20, 2005

Love in the Time of Genetics: Patrick Cave, Blown Away (London: Simon and Schuster, 2005).

I almost gave up on this book in the first ten pages they are so badly written. The opening newsheet sounds like the worst work of my students-pretending-to-be-journalists and the first pages of Adeline's story were uber-mystical. But I perservered and Cave got into his stride and this turned into one of the interesting books and one of the "definitely sf" books in my collection.

Blown Away is a sequel to Sharp North which I missed (have just ordered it). What I think Sharp North is about is the freezing of Britain and the failure of various gen-eng and cloning programmes. In this novel Adeline, a flawed clone, decides "what the hell". If she is going to die of a heart attack she might as well do it trying to attack the Neitschian supermen who are currently running Britain (or Briton as it is called by these madmen). Alongside this story runs the diaries of Dominic, the son of a 2023 magnate who has his material taken for cloning and is one of the progenitors of Briton's New Visions, supermen with amazing reflexes but an inclination to obey authority. Adeline, we eventually find out, is cloned from Dominic's long lost girlfriend, a natural athlete but both a rebel and a bit of a mystic.

Most of the book is essentially an adventure come love story but I like the fact that the love story has happened, it isn't what we are leading up to, and what we see is about consequences. Similarly, we don't have long debates about cloning and genetic engineering, we simply see the consequences and discuss those consequences. In that sense this is proper science fiction: the book is about if this happened then what? Not a very startling comment on my part but it has been so rare to find this basic element of sf in these children's books that it's worth noting. The background in the book is very well drawn, like Kate Thompson Patrick Cave is genuinely interested in what a collapsing society might look like, but generally he does urbanism better than the utopian project in the desert. That bit needs work if it isn't to sound soppy.

What else to say about this book? It's hard to think of much because it reminds me so strongly of Westall's Futuretrack Five. That's not an accusation, more about placing the book. When Futuretrack Five came out it was unequivocally a book for late teens, but somehow this isn't quite, it feels younger even though the protagonists are the same age: possibly because Dominic is rather dreamy and romantic? I don't know... need to think about this one some more.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Noga said...

I really enjoyed Sharp North, and had no idea there was a sequel already, so thanks!
It seems that it doesn't deal directly with the characters from the previous novel. If I remember correctly, btw, some sort of debate about cloning did take place in Sharp North, and it reminded me a lot of Nancy Farmer's House of the Scorpion.

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Noga said...

Had a check, and discovered I was wrong, as the main characters are the same. Having trouble remembering names lately..:)

10:07 AM  

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