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Debris, Jo Anderton

17 May

Debris front cover

 Jo Anderton
Angry Robot, 2011
ISBN 978-0-84766-153-1

Review by Ian Sales

We readers like our marketing categories. Whether we call it a genre, a mode, or whatever, we like to know whether a piece of fiction is likely to fulfil our desires to us before we invest time and money in it. Angry Robot have used this to their advantage, putting “File under SCIENCE FICTION” or “File under FANTASY” on the back covers of the books they publish.

However, in eighty-plus years, no one has managed a satisfactory definition of science fiction. The best we can do is point at it. So it seems somewhat churlish to complain that Debris, the first book of the Veiled Worlds trilogy, is clearly labelled “SCIENCE FICTION” but does not actually read like science fiction.

Tanyana is a pion-binder and architect in the city of Movoc-under-Keeper in the nation of Varsnia. Pions are semi-sentient particles which underlie the reality of Tanyana’s world. She can see these and mentally control them in order to perform tasks, such as reshaping reality into buildings. Other pion-binders use them generate heat, or light, or transport. The entire technological base of Varsnia is based on pions. They are… magical.

While working on her latest project, a giant statue called Grandeur, mysterious red pions attack Tanyana, causing her to fall from a great height. She is badly injured, and loses her ability to see and manipulate pions. Now she can see “debris”, left behind when pions change things. Their presence hinders pions, so they must be regularly collected. This is a job for the lowest of the low. Tanyana has in her fall from Grandeur also fallen from grace. She is convinced it was all a put-up job – who was controlling those mysterious red pions? – but despite her best efforts, she does not discover who, why or even how, the conspiracy responsible for her situation has done what it did to her.

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