Words, Weights, Whatever

Saturday, January 03, 2004


Clade by Mark Budz

Imagine a world where you are bonded biologically to your social class; where plants have warm blood (or its equivalent) flowing through their stems; clothes are sprayed on; and cyberspace is available by merely touching the organic wall in your room. That's the setting for Clade, the debut novel by Mark Budz.

The setting dominates the book as the main character, Rigo, tries to go about his daily life as an employee to one of the politicorps that dominiate this future world. A side trip for his shady half-brother, though, on one last job to help an aging elderly woman has repercussions far beyond his control.

I enjoyed the book. Again, the setting was unique (to me at least), a major qualification for science fiction and terribly difficult to find these days of mass-marketed books. The subgenre cyberpunk has been around enough to be almost cliche. (If I read another story about street samurai or angst among assassins, I'm going to nuke cyberspace with a copy of MSDOS 1.0....) A clade means "a group of biological taxa (as species) that includes all descendants of one common ancestor". In Budz's book, that definition is expanded to include an entire social class, ethnicity, etc., including the flora and fauna found within that level. Prisoners, for example, are "claded" so that any non-prisoner staying too long around them breaks out into threatening hives or worse. Intriguing.

I can't say the same for the characters in the novel, though. Especially the main characters. While I found it refreshing for Rigo and most of them to be decidingly non-Anglo ("cauc" in Clade terms), their actions and reactions are decidingly 20th century (pre-ecocaust). The almost contrived break-up and reconciliation between Rigo and his girlfriend especially felt forced.

One reviewer over on Amazon felt the author the strong but ultimately light suspense elements running through the beginning of the book weren't really necessary. I disagree, but felt more could have been done to increase the tension. I never felt the characters were in any true danger both physically and, especially, emotionally.

Overall, I give the book a solid B.

NOTE: The novel's written in third-person, present tense. I know the latter irritates some folks (like my spouse.)


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