Weeding Womb


Glacial by Alastair Reynolds. How interesting. A good old-fashioned murder mystery, except the murder is a century old, might really be an accident or a suicide, all the suspects are long-dead except one guy in suspended animation, and the investigator is a member of the Borg.

Well, not quite. Rather than something quite so obnoxious as the Borg, we have the Conjoined, a group of humans who have so much nanotech and other electronics hooked to their brains that they're part of a large human/computer collective. Still individuals, but individuals that spend a lot of time in each other's heads.

The main character is a bit different from the others, though. He has yet to undergo Transenlightenment, some semi-miraculous (hear the capital letter) change after which a Conjoined (if the main character is to be believed) evidently lose their senses of humor and stop sleeping. I presume the implication is that they become rather robotic in their behavior, even if they do other human-like things.

He also likes his solitude, and prefers such "primitive" things like talking instead of radio-assisted telepathy. The story explains this mostly because he's new to the game: in the last round of civil wars, he fought against the Conjoined. He's (obviously) since defected to the other side, for reasons unknown. While it's a noble attempt at a compelling story, the conceit of having a "human" amongst "post-humans" is transparent.

This group of Conjoined are some of the first humans to leave the solar system, and that's only because they're more refugees than explorers.

Imagine their surprise, then, when they land amongst the ruined remains of a human colony. The source of the colony and its abrupt collapse become secondary mysteries, as the plot focuses on two of the colonists - a dead man who was killed by something other than what most colonists fell to, and one survivor who put himself in suspended animation as a last-ditch way to stave off death.

It's a good mystery, which I won't spoil, even though there's only one suspect. My biggest complaint is that, while the main mystery of the dead colonist and his connection to the living one are solved, we never find out what really happened to the colonists. While the main site is obvious, there's multiple sites and - unless I missed something - they're never really covered well. Indeed, the resolution has aspects of some kind of morality play as much as aspects of a murder mystery.

Still, the main mystery's a fairly good one. Not a bad read.

The Archon

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