Jane’s debut novel is an inventive, ambitious sci-fi adventure with a heavy dose of science.
Derek Mondragon is having a rough time of it. His buddy, an “EXO gnosint” named Don MacCullum, is recovering in the hospital after having a chunk of his skull taken out in battle. As a gnosint, MacCullum has an ability to figure out complicated patterns, such as the one he discovered in an old book called the Voynich Manuscript—a complicated message to be decoded using an “accidental” genome. This distant-future society has two camps: “accidentals”—in short, naturally occurring humans—and “newstylers,” who have modified themselves genetically. And the two don’t get along. The newstylers on Mars started a rebellion against the emperor on Earth, and MacCullum is considered the final casualty, although hostilities seem to still be open. MacCullum is targeted for what he’s discovered, and Mondragon wants to find out why. But he’s got other problems—his wife leaves him and wants to send their daughter to a state-run hatchery where she can get more attention; her father, who’s on active military duty, doesn’t see her much. His attempt to get out of his service leads him to a secret mission, during which he learns of the emperor’s terrifying plans to build a newstyler army to conquer all of space. Jane’s world is incredibly expansive and well-drawn. Newstylers could buy anything from a fairy to a sentient jellyfish, and there are often political reasons for their choices. Technology and science are at the core of the novel, from how humans change their physical structure to methods they use to travel, theoretically, to the very ends of history. It speaks to the essence of existence—who we are in a time where every bit of us, including our consciousness, can be quantified and projected as a means of travel or transformation. The explanations can get a bit heady at times, but heavy sci-fi fans will find a lot to dig into. And Jane does a decent job balancing the action with the longer stretches of explanation and humor.
Fans of immersive sci-fi, like the work of Philip K. Dick, should take a look; an auspicious start for Jane.