Brenda Cooper

Reading Recommendation: Archangel, by Marguerite Reed

ArchangelI’m continuing to listen to some of the PK Dick nominee books in audio format.  This may be my last one as I need to start gearing up for the Hugos and Nebulas, and Norwescon is now coming right up.

I highly recommend Marguerite Reed’s complex far future novel Archangel.  I’m not quite sure whether I should describe it as a futuristic re-telling of Beauty and and the Beast or as an ecologically sensitive adventure/space colony story.  It doesn’t really matter….a book can be many things.  This one is good.

The writing is splendid, the world-building solid, and the story compelling. If they award the PKD based on the beauty of the line by line writing, I suspect Marguerite may have the rest of us licked (no small feat – these are good books!).

Since I listened to this rather than read it, I want to mention that the narrator was a near-perfect match for the main character’s voice. Dina Pearlman did very nice work here.

Archangel is set on a colony that may be the last hope for a version of mankind that can walk freely on a planet. There are ecological tensions, questions of genetic engineering, a great lost love, and political intrigue. These are all reader/writer cookies for me, and the themes (but not the story/characters) are very resonant with my own Fremont’s Children series where my debut won the Endeavor award years ago.  I always enjoy seeing how other writers handle similar ideas, and how we as science fiction writers hold what almost feels like indirect — and sometimes direct — conversations through our novels.

Since Ramez Naam (Apex), PJ Manney ((R)evolution), and I (Edge of Dark) all had transhumanist themes, I was curious about whether or not the other books did.  I would say yes for Archangel, as one central tension is about the humanity of a genetically modified character. But it is not as much the main theme as it is for the other three books.  At any rate, a reader interested in the next steps for mankind could read these four books and find four different, plausible, and fascinating answers.

Reminder — you can hear all six of us talk together at a great podcast put together by fellow nominee Douglas Lain. You can enter to win a copy of all six Phillip K. Dick nominated books on a website assembled by nominee Adam Rakunas.