Read Recently — May 2008 — Not of Woman Modified

Scardown by Elizabeth Bear

Sequel to Hammered. The title of this entry comes from the cover of the book, which says, “She wasn’t born for this mission. She was modified for it.” Which just goes to show that even people who make their living doing advertising and cover text for books don’t really know what they’re doing.

Basically, after the events of the first book, Jenny Casey (Master Warrant Officer) is back with the Canadian Forces, her cyberware fixed up and upgraded so that she can take on a new job: pilot of a starship. Thanks to a number of breakthroughs due to an alien craft found on Mars, Canada and China are racing to get a working starship up and get people off Earth before an ecological catastrophe renders the planet uninhabitable (only a matter of time, now). Jenny is Canada’s best hope.

Complications include her lover and her lover’s lover, and her lover’s family (two girls Jenny loves as if they were her own daughters, and one of whom is in line for the pilot program herself), her old commanding officer and sometime enemy, now her commander again, and the lengths the Chinese will go to to make sure they are the first to the stars. And, of course, the ghost of Richard Feynman has his own plans.

It’s a complicated story and we’re in the middle of it here, so it’s a little hard to write about it. Nonetheless, it’s well-written and contains plot twists that are impossible (mostly) to predict. One warning: this series sheds characters like a cat sheds hair. You can’t count on someone surviving just because they’re a good character.

With that caveat, highly recommended.

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