Debris - Jo Anderton - 464 pages - 2011 (Kindle version)
My quest to read books I don't normally read led me to the debut novel of Jo Anderton, "Debris", a steam-punk-esque, sci-fi/fantasy tale of class divides and technology gone wild. It isn't a book I would normally pick up, as I'm not a huge fan of steam-punk (it feels too forced and cliched at times) and a book's description that involves words like "architect" ,"pions" and "powersuit" are not normally that attractive to me. But as this is my year of pushing myself I bought an e-book version from Angry Robots and have to say I was pleasantly surprised.
Tanyana is a gifted "architect", someone who is able to manipulate pions (sub-atomic particles) and thereby change and manipulate matter into new constructions. She's been commissioned to create a majestic and giant statue called Grandeur when suddenly her whole world literally crashes down around her. With injuries so severe they couldn't be healed without extensive scarring, she awakes from her coma to discover that her lifelong ability is gone; and instead she must now collect the "debris" that builds up from pion manipulation, and can cause serious problems if left unchecked. Tanyana rebels against her new position and is convinced there's been a conspiracy behind her fall. But she soon finds her new abilities useful when an ominous force begins to threaten the city.
The true story of Debris lurks under the surface of the outward tale; the clashes and conflicts of class and society, especially when you go from being a member of the rich elite to one of the poorest and most despised peoples in the city. This is a very divided society that Anderton has created, and it gives the story and characters a depth they may have lacked otherwise. The characters themselves vary, with a few well developed, and others as thin as the paper they're written on. Most surprising of all is that Tanyana herself is not the most sympathetic of main characters, and with the whole story told from her point of view, there is a risk she may alienate some readers. Personally I liked the fact she was a bit selfish, clueless, and unwilling to accept her situation almost throughout the entire novel. What I didn't enjoy as much was the slow middle part of the book, where the pace obviously slackens, before returning to a much more enjoyable speed. The world and characters were suitably odd enough though to keep me reading to the end.
For some reason as I read Debris I envisaged the 'debris' and the action-packed scenes in an anime style. The descriptions of what debris can do when it builds up, along with the description of the city itself, put me in mind of Princess Monoke, where a dark sludge corrupts everything it touches. It would certainly be a good medium for this unusual story to be adapted to.
With another two books to follow I'm still interested enough to continue with the adventures of Tanyana, and hopefully a lot of the unanswered and under-developed aspects of Debris will be delved into in the sequels. Overall this was a good read, and has potential to be an interesting start of a great series.