enhanced] DD-B

Book Note: Susan Palwick, Shelter

I read this book about 4-Sep-2007. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 2007. This note was last modified Tuesday, 11-Sep-2007 19:21:25 PDT.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


I'm reading this for the "Good Read" panel at Farthing Party Two. I believe this was Lenny Bailes's choice.

I haven't read Palwick before, but Pamela has very much liked some of her books, and Lydy liked this one. It's probably not something I would have tried on my own, so we'll see how this goes.

We're starting with an 8-year-old girl who survives CV (a bunyamwera serogroup virus which is apparently a possibly emerging human virus in the real world today, or else an accidental name collision) while her parents don't, and makes friends with the first human translated to the Net. Already I'm asking what translation to the Net costs, and why it hasn't even been discussed in the context of this family of deathly people. I'm afraid it's going to be magic, an unconnected event. This does not bode well.

Okay, page 90 does bring up the cost of translation issue. But it still should have entered the minds of the parents and especially the 8-year-old child who is talking over the TV to the first translated person.

We get a bunch of viewpoints on the same situations, and we follow through to some kind of resolution that's even vaguely hopeful. It's written well enough, and the characters are okay.

It's the politics I have a hard time figuring out. Well, first, I'm confused how "gene therapy" relates to "brainwipe"; brainwipe is later defined to be deliberate infection with a CV strain that wipes memories and personality (but not too well because the people often go back to familiar places and exhibit similar traits like caring for stray cats).

And then I'm wondering what the deal is with the broadening use of therapeutic and punitive brainwipe. One character is an anti-wipe activist, and like any draconian punishment some of the uses are appalling; but it looks like Nicholas getting wiped was very likely the best outcome for everybody, and Meredith did a lot of damage to herself and others trying to avoid it.

Then there's AI politics; Meredith and Roberta both can't conceive how AIs could possibly be "people", and are very doubtful about translations like Preston; whereas to me it's obvious that they can. And nothing is done to communicate any basis for their attitude. Since the caring, smart people are largely AIs in this book, maybe it's supposed to be undermining their anti-AI stance, but in that case it's a weak stereotype rather than the best case that can be made for that side. I was kinda hoping to understand their position better, even if that didn't change mine.

So overall, okay, considerably better than I was afraid of at the beginning. But not something that will lead me to pursue the author's future work avidly.

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David Dyer-Bennet