Friday, December 09, 2005

A Walk on the Wildside: Garth Nix, Shade’s Children (New York: Eos (Harper Collins), 2003. C. 1997.

I’ve never been wholly convinced by Garth Nix’s fantasy and the latest sequence, the Keys, leaves me cold. Shade’s Children interested me a bit more but I’m still rather uneasy.

In this book children who escape from the Dorms are taken in by Shade, an artificial intelligence which survived the Change. Some of the children have Change powers: one can see into the immediate future, another can teleport small objects.

Shade uses the children to conspire against the Overlords who breed children and work their bodies into bioforms to fight games. The book is as if the opening scenes of The Terminator were extended into a whole film of humans fighting machines.

Where the sf works is in the children’s abilities to learn and to adapt, their relationship with Shade and their resentment of his control, and Shade’s own tension between his desire to defeat the over-lords and his realisation that this will destroy him. Adults are nicely absent because anyone over 16 disappeared in a technological rapture on the day of Change.

Where I am more bothered is politically: the castrated child and his girlfriend die before the end of the book, and the survivors are shown walking through the bliss of reconstructed heteronormativity. It really wasn’t necessary.


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