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.
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.
If you are absolutely one of those science fiction readers who can’t stand dated science fiction, it’s possible you might be somewhat annoyed with this novel. This book has dated some in the 16 years since it was first published. That sort of thing doesn’t bother me, but, here, I found the “dated” aspects actually added an additional element of interest by showing a future different but similar to ours. On the somewhat trivial level, Nagata depicts a future with little air travel since terrorists have downed planes with missiles. While virtual reality has not taken off the way that this novel – and many science fiction stories of the 1990s – depicts, here it resembles what we would call social media. That turns out to be a major development in the decay of nation states and the beginnings of a new global order the world undergoes during the story’s timeline. Finally, Tom’s sister, Senator Carlson, fights the notion of cryonic suspension because of its expense and the resources need to find the cure necessary to revive him – a big expenses for a United States with national health care. That certainly is a valid prediction of the crimp in medical research that will be necessitated with the recent lurch toward nationalized health care America has taken.
But, ultimately, it’s Katie that fascinates and carries the reader through the story. She oddly reminded me of a female Odysseus struggling and wandering to regain the home and arms of her mate.