Review: Memory, Linda Nagata, 2003. 

Cover by Emily Irwin

There is the feel of a fantasy quest and a western in this novel, Nagata’s introduction to the world at the center of Silver.

There are gods, reincarnation of a sort, and destined lovers. It is a world of vast spaces with humans living only around temples. Most of it seems to be desert-like. There is no aviation. Electronic communication is spotty. Rather than horses, the characters travel by motorcycles and trucks, always careful to arrive at a temple by nightfall. Night is when the silver comes up, a nanotechnology that sometimes consumes or transforms what it touches. Only the “kobolds” in the temples keep it at bay – sometimes.

Frankly, I’ve known about this novel for years, but a young protagonist and a synopsis with words I normally associate with fantasy novels didn’t make me want to read it.

However, our narrator Jubilee, a teenager, has a compelling voice and doesn’t have the sort of “pluck” that grates on me.

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Review: Silver: Inverted Frontier, Book 2, Linda Nagata, 2019.

Cover by Sarah Anne Langton

A crippled god tries to return to his broken creation. A man pursues, trying to stop him from gaining more power. A young woman looks for her lost love.

This book is quite different than its predecessor, Edges. Much of the action takes place on Verilotus, the artificial world that Lezuri, that god-like castaway picked up by Dragon in the proceeding book, created.

At the climax to Edges, a chase ensued following the Pyrrhic War which wrested control of the Dragon from Lezuri. But not a chase of bodies but of minds encoded as information, “ghosts”, as Lezuri beamed himself from the information systems of outriding vessel to outriding vessel.

Eventually, he took control of one and headed to Verilotus where a fight with a “goddess” left him crippled and that settlement wrecked. It seems the two entities, possessing extremely sophisticated nanotechnology, created a world but disagreed as to its ultimate use.

But Urban, the leader of the Dragon expedition, is in pursuit. As far as he knows, Dragon is still in Lezuri’s hands, and he won’t communicate with it for fear that his incarnation in one of those outriders will be detected.

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There’s been lots of weird fiction on this blog lately and near future tales. But we’re back to pure science fiction this time with a space adventure from Linda Nagata.

Review: Edges: Inverted Frontier, Book 1, Linda Nagata, 2019. 

Cover by Sarah Anne Langton

A space quest to determine what happened to the human homeworlds, games of deception played against alien berserker ships in deep space, and a mysterious castaway who wants to hijack that quest for his own ends – this novel returns to the universe of Nagata’s Nanotech Succession and takes place shortly after Vast

Nagata says she crafted this to be a new entry point into the series, and she succeeded. I remembered little of the last two novels of the series, Deception Well and Vast and was able to pick up on the story quickly. 

The Inverted Frontier of the title refers to the center of humanity’s expansion into space, the core from which man expanded outward. That core, the Hallowed Vasties, seems to have undergone some great change, the Dyson swarms around its suns have been dismantled. Thus humanity, at least in its altered version, exists only on the fringe planet of Deception Well.

The story opens with a Chenzeme courser approaching that planet. It’s not a welcome event, but it is one that has been prepared for since humanity fought a war against the Chenzeme, a mysterious alien race extensively using biological modifications and nanotech in its spaceships.

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“Out in the Dark”

Review: “Out in the Dark”, Linda Nagata, 2013.

This is Nagata’s second Zeke Choy story, and I liked it a lot better than “Nahiku West”.

This is good example of how the character of the policeman can be used to illustrate the conflicts between a society’s laws and justice, morality, and changing mores.

Choy is sent on an internal investigation to Sato Station. Its target is another member of the Commonwealth Police, Pana.

Three days earlier, two asteroid prospectors, Kiel Chaladur and his wife Shay Antigo, showed up there. As usual, both were scanned for illegal modifications to their bodies because, sometimes, asteroid prospectors get up to illegal things in the vast and lonely dark of space.

The scan for Kiel matched the one on file and showed a legal person. However, Shay’s records did not exist. Pana’s report accepted her claim that Kiel met Shay in space where she was born. That’s why she is not registered in Commonwealth records.

Choy finds this implausible and thinks Pana took a bribe.

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“Nahiku West”

It’s a return to Linda Nagata’s Nanotech Succession.

Review: “Nahiku West”, Linda Nagata, 2012.

This story seems to take place around the time of the second novel, The Bohr Maker.

Protagonist and narrator Zeke Choy is a Commonwealth Policeman, drafted into that service since he’s a designer of “makers”, the nanotech devices that enable long extended life.

However, the Commonwealth doesn’t allow unlimited modifications to the human form. Some maker modifications are illegal, and the penalty for having them is death.

Humans in this world can record their minds as “ghosts” and send those recording into a constructed body not necessarily identical to the one previously inhabited by the mind. Choy seems to have altered his body when entering police academy. There are also “atriums” in these brains which allow interface with cybernetic devices.

The story opens with a micrometerorite punching a hole in a capsule traveling the tether between the two space settlements of Nahiku East and Nahiku West.

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War Stories from the Future

After finishing Burn-In, I decided to read this book since it also has a story from that novel’s co-author August Cole.

I thought it was one of the many books I got a review copy of and hadn’t reviewed yet, so I thought I’d chip another bit off that list.

It turns out it was just a freebie from the Atlantic Council, and you can get your free copy at the link below.

Review: War Stories from the Future, ed. August Cole, 2015.

Cover by Sam Cole

You don’t usually see a Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States of America introducing a science fiction anthology, but Martin Dempsey was just that. He has a master’s degree in English and praises sf not for its predictive abilities but its provocation and power to develop “the professional imagination” and as “a mental laboratory”.

The book proved weirdly appropriate for the age of COVID – at least as presented in the panicked minds of the Sanitary Dictatorship in charge of various countries and their propaganda organs.

A Visit to Weizenbaum” from Jamie Metzel gives us a story where the use of tailored bioweapons requires Isolation Soldiers. They live in very sealed compounds for 18 months, their bodies monitored for signs of infection and entertained with virtual reality systems. Unfortunately, the rest of the story isn’t that interesting. It’s a therapy session with a soldier missing his beloved Elizabeth.

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This concludes my retro review series of Linda Nagata’s Nanotech Succession. This one is from September 30, 2012.

As with the earlier books, the link is to the Kindle edition which has been slightly revised from the version I reviewed.

Review: Vast, Linda Nagata, 1998.Vast 

The final novel of Nagata’s Nantoech Succession is somewhat disappointing.

Nagata’s strengths are again on display here. There is her clever combining of information science and theory with a technology of an often organic sort. With the former, we get recorded and edited and copied personalities which operate in a matrix ranging from computers to something approaching a standard issue homo sapiens body. So-called “cells” – automata running in living matter and, sometimes, the dust scattered throughout solar systems to form a vast processing system – are the organic element.

Her language, particularly in the last four pages, can rise to an astringent poignancy, a clear-eyed look at life and man’s place in the cosmos that somehow doesn’t descend into nihilism or a sense of cosmic horror.

Nagata presents her plot and explanations for her mysteries much more forthrightly than in the preceding novel, Deception Well. That includes an opening prologue which brings the reader quickly up to speed. And, yes, we do get the answers to some of the bigger mysteries of the series. Continue reading

Deception Well

This is the third installment in my retro-reviews of the work of Linda Nagata. This retro review is from September 26, 2012.

Again, the link is to the Kindle edition of the work which has been slightly revised from the edition I reviewed.

Review: Deception Well, Linda Nagata, 1997.Deception Well

This is the third part of Nagata’s Nanotech Succession, but you can dive right into the series with this book, particularly if you’ve already read Skye Object 3270a which, in some ways, it resembles – though this is a far more complicated and ambitious book.

Like that novella, this is the story of a young boy, here Lot, who lives on Silk, an orbital settlement connected by sky elevator to Deception Well, a world with a very complicated and mysterious ecology.

This story is set earlier so even less is known about Deception Well. It is the destination of a starship manned by a cult centering around Jupiter, a man who has, in Nagata’s most inventive idea in a novel full of invention, a strange biochemical ability to sense and manipulate the emotions of others. The Silkens defeat Jupiter’s attempt to go to Deception Well, a world they fear because it wiped out the original settlers of Silk. Some of the cult members are assimilated into Silken society, and the novel follows one in particular.

Lot, son of Jupiter, has inherited his peculiar charismatic quality. But Nagata doesn’t give us the stereotypical science fiction story of the poor-oppressed-orphan-with-the-strange-talent-who-is-persecuted-but-is-really-the-savior-of-his-people plot. There’s good reason to fear his talent, especially when he begins to foment revolt amongst the “ados” (non-voting citizens less than a 100 years old). And he also begins to suspect, as he questions Silkens and ex-followers of Jupiter, there is more to his father and his past then he knew. There’s also his friend Urban, another not altogether sympathetic character. Peculiarly immune to Lot’s charisma, he likes the potential for power being so close to Lot confers. Continue reading


A continuation of the retro-review series on Linda Nagata’s Nanotech Succession series. This one is from August 25, 2012.

The link is to the Kindle version of the novel which is slightly revised from the version I reviewed.

Review: Tech-Heaven, Linda Nagata, 1995.Tech-Heaven

Linda Nagata’s second novel is many things: the second installment in her Nanotech Succession series; the story of Katie Kishida, a woman fiercely committed to resurrecting her husband Tom in cryonic suspension; and a near future novel now interestingly dated in some aspects.

While it is a step backwards in time from the first novel in the series, The Bohr Maker, to an indeterminate time in the early 21st Century, this novel is a noticeable improvement in Nagata’s skill. While the nanotechnology is less sophisticated than in the earlier book, the science is actually more detailed, specifically the challenges of maintaining someone in cryonic suspension and then reviving them. While still maintaining a fine sense of pacing, Nagata breaks up her viewpoint chapters with Kishida with snippets from popular cable tv and internet based entertainment and “Wedged Time” segments which are the dreams of Kishida’s husband Tom while he is a corpsicle.

Katie’s story is infused with an emotional intensity I seldom come across in science fiction. As fits an epic story which will cover thirty years form the time of Tom’s death and suspension to the book’s climax, the novel opens in media res with a 64 year Katie approaching a hidden crypt in an abandoned copper mine where her husband lies. Then the novel backtracks to show the political struggles of Katie with her sister-in-law, a powerful US senator; the attempts on her life; the bitter falling out with former friends over her decision to freeze rather than bury her husband; and, of course, the efforts to fund – and be allowed to use – a cure to revive her husband. And, with the betrayals of family and friends, comes the betrayal of Katie’s heart – the occasional resentments at the duty Tom’s “presence” requires, his hold on her loyalty when she takes a new husband. Continue reading

The Bohr Maker

I’ve talked briefly about awards before. Dismissively.

They do have one use: they publicize writers trying to make a living now rather than, a la Edgar Allan Poe, becoming a posthumous legend. Linda Nagata effectively makes that point.

But I am not a writer. My desires are not congruent with writers’. I do not find awards useful. I will also note that, as per the Arthur C. Clarke Awards she discusses, there are a whole lot of titles on that list that are not science fiction — the genre Clarke wanted to recognize through the award. I would argue that is a criteria so loose as to be useless.

Still I like the Nagata work I’ve read, so this is going be a the start of a review series on her Nanotech Succession. (I have not read her Red trilogy.)

The review is for the original edition, but the link is to the new Kindle edition which, I understand, has been slightly revised.

A retro review from August 18, 2012 …

Review: The Bohr Maker, Linda Nagata, 1995.Bohr Maker

It’s not like I missed the debut of novelist Linda Nagata. I bought the original paperback of this edition when it came out, but it sat on my shelf unread until I read her recent young adult novel Skye Object 3270A set much further in the universe of this novel.

I was not disappointed by this novel nor did I find it dated.

My inner bureaucrat finds a fascination with stories built around the idea of controlling – but not totally suppressing – a powerful and disruptive technology. Here it’s nanotechnology, dubbed “makers” in this novel.

A Commonwealth, to which most of the humans of Earth and orbital habitats in the solar system belong, mandates that nanotechnology only be used in limited ways. Specifically, radical alterations to the human genome, beyond curing degenerative disorders – which include aging – and cosmetic changes to skin and hair color, are not allowed. Embodying a major exception to this is one of the novel’s central characters: Nikko Jiang-Tibayan. With his ceramic skin and ability to exist in the vacuum of space, Nikko is actually a science project authorized by the Commonwealth Police, a science project with a legally mandated end coming soon. Nikko begs his old lover, Kirstin Adair, who just happens to be the Chief of Commonwealth Police, for an extension of his life. Adair is one of the best things about the novel. She’s an unpleasant and fanatical adherent to the modern superstition of nature worship, a devoted protector of the Mother Goddess Gaia. Still, she’s not entirely unsympathetic. The makers do promise tremendous upheaval. That was realized by another old lover of hers, Leander Bohr, when he developed – but refused to release to other people – the most sophisticated and illegal maker of all, the titular Bohr Maker.

To extend his life, Nikko tries to get the sequestered Bohr Maker and sets in motion a series of events that will threaten his younger brother; possibly estrange him even more from his father Fox who designed him and the sophisticated orbital habitat they live in, a man whose experiments in maker development push the very limits of legality; entangle two ex-prostitutes, Phousita – a voluptuous and perfectly proportioned four-foot-tall woman – and Arif – possessor of a glow-in-the-dark clown face of long nose and bulging cheeks, in a cascade series of events that threaten the political and social order of the Commonwealth. Continue reading