Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Neptune's Brood - Charles Stross

Neptune’s Brood
A Space Opera
Charles Stross

Krina Alizond-114 is a metahuman on a mission.  So far, her mission has lasted thirty years.  It’s not a problem, since she can download and upload her soul chip into new bodies as necessary.  She’s worried about her sibling, Ana, who dropped out of sight without warning.  Searching for Ana means travelling to various planetary systems; not really what Krina wants to be doing.  As a banker, she’s used to the soothing regularity of spreadsheets, not strange places with strange beings.  But she’s afraid that something has happened to Ana.
Finding transport to her next planetary system isn’t easy, and she’s forced to take a work-fare on a chapel ship that’s headed in the right direction.  The Chapel of Our Lady of the Holy Restriction Endonuclease is dedicated to seeding the stars with the Fragile.  The Fragile are real, biological humans; a species that has an alarming tendency to go extinct when dropped into foreign ecosystems.  It should be a boring trip, full of drudgery.  Instead, the chapel ship is boarded by pirates.  Taken on board the pirate ship, run by Count Rudi, is really only the beginning of the adventure.
The universe of this book is based on a simple concept: everything begins and ends with the creation and retirement of debt.  If you have any background in accounting/bookkeeping, there’s a lot here to amuse you.  If you know nothing about accounting or the economics of doing business over vast distances of space and time, don’t worry: Krina will explain it all to you.  If you can read this without having Monty Python’s “Accountancy Shanty” running through your head at odd moments (and there are many) then you’re stronger than I am.

The action moves to different places across the stars.  Each planet and society is different, and, for all the alien-ness (for lack of a better word) seems completely realistic.  This can be read as a straight space opera, a science fiction adventure, a personal journey, a mystery to be unraveled, or all of these.  The narration contains quite a bit of dry humor for those who care to tease it out of the language.  That just adds another dimension to the whole.  The plot continues to unwrap itself, layer by layer, throughout the book.  There’s really never a dull moment.  This is what every scifi novel wants to be: a completely unique and memorable experience.
Rating: 9
July 2013
ISBN# 978-0-425-25677-0 (hardcover)

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