Tuesday, 16 February 2010

State of Decay, Book Review

by James Knapp
ISBN: 9780451463104

Pros: well imagined world with a 3 tier citizenship system, interesting characters, extremely complex plot, lots of plot twists, keeps you on your toes and guessing about what will happen next

Pro/Con (depending on your point of view): everything that happens is important, so pay close attention when you read

Cons: redundant repetition

If you don't like the think when you read, you won't like State of Decay. So much happens all at once, and all of it is important. It took me about a hundred pages or so to really get into the story. There are 4 character POVs, and each one requires figuring out their place in society, their current actions and trying to understand how they'll fit into the main story. Around the hundred page mark the stories start to converge, and you're well into an awesome science fiction ride.

The main story focuses on Nico Wachalowski. When we meet him, the FBI agent is busting a revivor smuggling ring. Revivors are people reanimated after their deaths to serve in the military in return for second class citizenship while alive. Wachalowski quickly realizes that smuggling is only the most visible aspect of a deeper conspiracy.

Faye Dasalia is a detective investigating the murders of first class citizens who somehow managed to reach that status without serving in the military, the condition for that level of citizenship.

Zoe Ott is a clairvoyant. She has trouble distinguishing reality from her visions. While being an alcoholic doesn't bring the relief she's looking for, she keeps trying. She also has a peculiar way of getting people to do what she asks.

Calliope Flax is a boxer. She's brutal in the ring with a foul mouth and no expectations of a better life. She's third class, meaning she hasn't served in the military during her life and doesn't intend to dead.

Of the storylines, Cal's was the least interesting to me. Her story barely intersects the others, while theirs carry the plot forward. She does, however, mature the most, becoming, not a stronger person - she begins pretty strong - but one who can see a future for herself that didn't exist before the events of the book.

Knapp manages to keep the tension high throughout the story, with occasional down time. He made one 'newbie' writing mistake (which I probably only noticed because I read several books on writing recently and so am looking for this in my own work). He has the tendency to mention things twice. In some cases this is necessary (as when Dasalia talks to herself and then asks something out loud - which becomes an important plot point). Other times he's just belaboring the obvious. It's an 'error' that experience will fix.

He introduces some pretty cool technological advances, most notably the implant wired into Wachalowski's skull that allows him to record video feed of what he sees as well as communicate via thought patterns with his superiors.

The plot has twists you won't see coming, with an ending to match. I can't wait to see what happens next.

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