Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Recent reading - fantasy

Darkland by Liz Williams: I was slightly worried that I wouldn't like this, since I had read an earlier book by the same author, which I thought promising, but ultimately hard work - however this proved to be a good, swift read. It's set in a future where humans have travelled to other planets and undergone both intentional and accidental genetic modification. In Darkland such modifications are both secret and extreme, and Vali Halldottir, an agent of a matriarchal organisation called the Skald, is sent to investigate. She is, I'd have to say, rather good at getting caught, but her mission eventually takes her to the planet Mhondile, where she is surprised to learn that infants are sent into the forest to fend for themselves until they reach puberty, and the relationship of the inhabitants with the planet's wildlife is perhaps rather unusual.

Vali is a strong character, as are the other women in the novel. Her one-time lover Frey is rather more opaque, perhaps appropriately as he is genetically quite alien, but I found his motivation for his actions a little inadequate. Nonetheless the book addresses notions of how far it may be permissable to genetically manipulate future humans, and who has the right to make such decisions. We aren't so very far from human/animal chimerae these days, and these are important questions.

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