Elizabeth Bear is a powerful writer, and her Jenny Casey trilogy is entertaining, if a bit complicated for pleasure reading. The first novel, Hammered, got my attention. I do wish I had read this mid-trilogy yarn earlier, because I had to review some of Hammered to get reoriented for Scardown. The politics and “who’s who” backstory is not rehashed, for the most part, in this second novel, which is actually a good thing, since too much backstory slows down even a rapid paced techno-thriller such as this.
At times the narrative shifts from character to character, but when Jenny Casey is center-stage, this novel shines. I especially liked the scene where Jenny is faced with a would be assassin, and she manages to pluck a killer bullet out of the air. Unfortunately she can’t really enjoy the feat, since she is wounded will soon be on the way to a hospital. Okay, Jenny isn’t a superhero, but she has the right stuff to be heroic.
This futuristic vision is gritty and troubled, but throughout most of human history, the planet has had problem upon problem. Certainly, much of what is happening now, with politics and science, inspires readers to believe that Utopia won’t happen, but the Canada vs. China for world and solar system domination which sets the stage for this trilogy just might.
Scardown is a worthy read for fans of hard science fiction, but the characters have enough dimension to reward those of us who like the human elements as well.