Category Archives: Jo Anderton

Jo Anderton’s Latest Suited Me Just Fine

Jo Anderton
Angry Robot Books
432pp B-format paperback
£7.99 UK
ISBN 9780857661562
416pp mass-market paperback
$7.99 US $8.99 CAN
ISBN 9780857661579
ePub ISBN 9780857661586

I liked the premier novel in this series, Debris, although I took issue with the publisher’s classification of it as science fiction; as a scientist, I have to regard the way some things happened in the book as fantasy.   Either way, it was a great read.  Suited is even better, in my not-so-humble opinion. It’s easy to see why she won the Ditmar Award for Best New Talent.  Congratulations, Jo!

The story picks up shortly after the events in Debris.  The Puppet Men are still out there, and they have plans for Tanyana and her collecting team.  Starting by splitting them up.  Lad and Tanyana end up in the same team, while Lad’s brother and protector Kichlan goes to a different team.

Right from the start, things begin to go wrong.  Debris is hard to find, making quota difficult to achieve.  Ordinary debris, that is.  The half alive stuff keeps popping up, and in the worst places.  Tanyana’s suit is getting stronger, not to mention developing a mind of its own.  The Keeper is talking to Lad, although Tanyana is the only one who can see him, and then only when fully encased in her suit.  The Keeper insists they help him rather than trying to meet their quota, and what he asks can be chilling.

There’s a member of Tanyana’s new team who has a suit like hers.  He may or may not be what he seems.  But he’s not the only one with secrets.  Tanyana has a few of her own, such is she pregnant?  Some of the team members she’s been working with are hiding things as well.  As is the Keeper.

The relationships between Tanyana, Lad, and Kichlan continue to grow and deepen.  This is one of the places where Anderton shows her strengths.  Her friendship with Lad and deepening love for Kichlan are complex, multifaceted, and believable.  Which makes the impact of the second half of the book so devastating.

All hell breaks loose.  Things move along at a breakneck pace, and Anderton handles the action like an author with more than just two published novels under her belt.  I finished the last third of the book in almost a single sitting and barely noticed the passage of time.  By the time you turn the last page, everything will have changed.  Where Anderton is going to go with the next book, I’m not about to try and guess.  I’m just going to go along for the ride.

Suited is a dizzying tour de force that’s not really like anything out there.  And that suits me just fine.  Both Debris and Suited are featured books at Adventures Fantastic Books.

Here’s an excerpt:

A Brief Look at Debris

Jo Anderton
Angry Robot
464pp mass-market paperback
$7.99 US, $8.99 CAN
ebook £4.49 / $5.99

This review would have been up a few days ago if I had had access to a computer.  My son didn’t have school today, so we took advantage of the long weekend to go visit my parents.  Only their computer was in the shop, and I hadn’t brought mine along.  So instead of a post about every other day for a few days, this is (hopefully) the first of at least four days in a row with new material.

But you probably aren’t interested in that.  What you want to know is if the book is any good.  Am I right?  Of course I am.  Aren’t I always?  (Don’t answer that.)

Yes, this is a good book, but I have a quibble with the publisher about it.

This is the third book I’ve reviewed from Angry Robot in the last six weeks.  The first one, Roil, was listed by the publisher as fantasy, while I felt it was more science fiction, or at the outside, science fantasy.  The second novel, Darkness Falling, I considered to be fantasy, although the publisher listed it as science fiction.  Now we come to Debris, a novel I consider to be science fantasy if not outright fantasy, while the publisher calls it…you guessed it, science fiction.

I’ll explain my reasons in a minute.  To understand, you need some background.  Tanyana is an architect.  In this world, that’s a slightly different job than it is in ours.  Tanyana is capable of seeing and controlling pions, which are the building blocks of matter.  They almost act as if they are alive.  When pions are used to make things, build things, produce energy, or for any other purpose, they generate waste called debris.  The debris acts like it’s alive at times as well.

There’s just one problem with this scenario.  I don’t buy it.  As a practicing physicist, I can assure you the universe doesn’t act that way, at least not the one we inhabit.  Well, maybe the one that weird guy in the office at the end of the hall lives in, but not the rest of us.  The pions described in this book aren’t the ones I’m familiar with.  I was expecting a science fiction novel, but that’s not what I got, at least by my definition.  Because the physical world described here clearly isn’t ours, I would have to classify this as fantasy.  I think what threw me was Ms. Anderton’s use of the word “pion”, which has a particular meaning for me.

Anyway, once I got over all that, I quite enjoyed the book.  This is a story of a woman who doesn’t so much fall from great heights as she is pushed.  Literally.  The opening chapter finds Tanyana leading her circle of binders (people who can control pions) in building a giant statue.  Something goes wrong, they lose control, and Tanyana is thrown off the statue.  Her injuries are such that she can no longer see pions.

She can, however, see debris.  Debris is like entropy personified, although not everyone can see it, just like not everyone can see pions.  That doesn’t make it any less destructive.  Debris has to be collected and contained or all sorts of bad things will happen.  Assigned to a collecting team that doesn’t want her, Tanyana must figure out who is behind not only her disgrace, but the systematic campaign to ruin everyone who ever did her a favor. 

Collectors are at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, while binders are near the top.  Things go from bad to worse, as Tanyana’s life unravels and she is forced to piece a new one together, while eruptions of debris are increasing and becoming more deadly.  All the while she is stalked by the mysterious and frightening puppet men.

Not everyone is who or what they appear to be.  There are mysteries here, and not all of them are solved.  The ones that are, well, they still have plenty of open questions. Important pieces of history appear to have been lost.  Some of the characters have surprising depths.  Once I got into the story and past my physics hangups, I was hooked.  The characters are real, growing and changing.  They are individuals you care about.  The mysteries are intriguing, the plot captivating, the villains frightening.  And characters from children’s stories in this world, well, they may just turn out to be real. 

Ms. Anderton is an Australian writer, and this is her first novel, so her name may not be familiar to most of you.  Remember it.  This book promises to be the launch of what should be a successful and major career in the field.  It’s the first of a series, it’s fresh and original, and I’ll be reading the next installment.