Lightborn by Tricia Sullivan
|Lightborn by Tricia Sullivan|
|Category: Science Fiction|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Trippy and fast-moving story of a plugged-in world that collapses in one city, leaving children to deal with their spaced-out, incapable parents whilst under threat from a government under pressure and threatening nukes.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 464||Date: October 2010|
|External links: Author's website|
In an alternate but contemporary United States, everyone uses Lightborn technology, or shine, as it's nicknamed. Providing entertainment, education and self-knowledge, people live in the ultimate plugged-in society. And then the Fall comes. Rogue AIs in the shine field around the city of Los Sombres start sending out bad shine and the adults all go loco - becoming violent and murderous, or broken down and reduced to performing repetitive tasks over and over.
The government quarantines the area and debates the ethics of a nuclear strike, while the few that are unaffected - the pre-pubescent and the adult burn-outs (criminals or ex-shine addicts) - live in relatively normal pockets on the outskirts of the city or do the best they can inside it. Xavier lives on a ranch on the outskirts with some Hopi natives and his mother, who can't stop knitting. He gets by taking kisspeptin to stave off puberty and avoid the bad shine, and when it runs out he has no choice but to brave the city centre in search of more.
I like dystopian fiction, but I don't read that much "proper" sci-fi, so I found Lightborn great fun to read. There are so many good things about it. Sullivan catapults you right into the action and doesn't waste time on tiresome exposition: in fact, I lost the plot quite regularly, never mind her shine victims. Long sequences are surreal and trippy and quite wonderful to read. I also like the underlying theme of how technologically advanced societies run the dangers of being too selfish, too tuned into individualism and selfishness and too tuned out to the health of the whole. I also loved the sneakily humorous contemporary reference chapter titles: Borg Moment, Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.
I didn't really get the shine technology though. Sullivan never really explains what was good about it in the first place and I only had the vaguest of pictures as to the benefits it had brought. I wasn't really sure what state the characters were trying to get back to. I was also somewhat underwhelmed by the central character Xavier. He began quite well, as a boy wanting to experience life as a man - to have sexual relationships, to be treated as an equal - but stuck in the body of a child from fear of the rogue shine. But as the book went on, I lost sight of him as a person completely. Part of this is due to what happens to him plot-wise, but nevertheless, frankly I lost interest in him from about halfway through the book. And losing interest in a main character can't be a good thing.
Even so, I really enjoyed Lightborn. It's interesting, fast-paced and trippy with some deadly serious themes tempered with the odd note of surreal humour. It may not be perfect, but I'm recommending it anyway.
My thanks to the good people at Orbit for sending the book.
You can read more book reviews or buy Lightborn by Tricia Sullivan at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Lightborn by Tricia Sullivan at Amazon.com.
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