ORBzine - 2000.05 Book Reviews

ORBzine - Book Reviews - May 2000


Written by Ian McDonald

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The book is set in the near future [10 years after 1995, when the book was written]. As with Escape from New York , this may be a mistake. Only time will tell.

The heroine is Gaby McAslan, a young woman from NI who wants to become a TV journalist and cover the unfolding discovery of a forthcoming alien landing in Kenya. She is portrayed as a typical NI person a normal British citizen who just happens to be from NI. The fact is, as McDonald acknowledges, NI is just like any part of England, Scotland or Wales.

Gaby graduates from Journalism School and gets a job with a TV news company. She gets her wish, an assignment in Africa - where the alien landed. The alien is the Chaga - an ever-expanding jungle, something that the concept itself is alien.


Written by Ian McDonald, 1998

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This is McDonald's sequel to Chaga. Kirinya is a metropolis within the Chaga, with a population of 12 million. The arrival of the Chaga has split human society beyond recognition or reconciliation. The South, the third-world countries infested with the alien bio-tech, embrace the new developments. The North, specifically the USA's military-industrial complex, is scared of the empowered third-world anarchists.

The book casts the USA as Imperialist villains. However, the third-worlders are as violent and manipulative towards each other as the Merkins are.

The first half of the book focuses on Gaby's friend, Oksana the Siberian pilot-cum-shaman, and her quest to find herself and her friend.

The second half concerns Gaby's daughter Serena, and her quest to find herself and her father.



Addendum: Book Group 2005

In August 2005 the novel Kirinya was selected for discussion by a book group. They were not hard-core Science Fiction literature fans, and none of them had read Chaga.

Their responses can be summarised as follows:

It is like reading Two Towers without having first read Fellowship of the Ring. There is a densely written intro section that is very hard to get through. The Chaga and the BDO are very big concepts that are not fully explained. It assumes that the reader knows everything in the first book. Compare this with the average detective novel [the example used was Peter Tremayne's Sister Fedelma series]. You can read them as stand-alones, out of order.

The thing is, the book's cover doesn't say that it's a sequel. It's certainly not part of a trilogy.

Worse, there's no real story at the start. There's excellent prose, but it's almost gratuitous - it didn't go anywhere. There's too much hard science, not enough fiction. Like a voyage though the landscape, like a tourist - the book moves on before anything happens.

Reviewer's Note; In all fairness, the readers didn't finish the book. Their comments only really apply to the first half of the novel. The second half has a lot more plot.

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