Warning: Contains body horror, contamination, implied eternal suffering, gun use, needles, and spiders.
In a single drop of contaminated blood, there writhe millions of needle-shaped cells. When introduced to a host, they spread — healing wounds, replenishing fluids, patching bone. The host becomes unstoppable; even complete destruction of its brain isn’t necessarily the end. All their cells are gradually replaced, enhanced.
Eden Green is the third human to see the needles in action, after her best friend Veronica accepts them without thinking. Patient Zero is Tedrin, a shady manipulator who offers the corruption as a path to immortality. Only Eden, a rationalist by nature, questions Tedrin’s motives; she can’t help imagining an eternity as a human weapon trapped in a body made of needles.
Armed with reason, humor, and a shotgun, she sets out to learn as much as she can about the parasite — and how to save her sanity, Veronica, and the world.
I was given a reading copy of this by the author, Fiona Van Dahl. Goodreads author page.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, hopefully this will be the beginning of a new era of productivity.
As few spoilers as possible, as always.
So I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this book, for a couple of reasons. Firstly I’m fairly new to the rational-fiction genre as a whole, having read Worm one and a half times last year and the Methods of Rationality over a couple days about two weeks ago. Rationalist fiction is fairly new to me, relatively, so I jumped at the chance to read more of it. Plus, Fiona Van Dahl is a cool name.
The second reason I wasn’t sure of what to expect is because I don’t usually go in for ebooks/self-published material in general. I realise it’s a good, easy way for unique voices with something to offer, which has been judged by editors or publishing houses or someone down the line to be too much or too different or too edgy or just too something to appeal to the people to whom the publishing industry want to appeal. I know that the houses who do want to publish these things are by definition small, and usually inundated with too many submissions for them to easily publish, regardless of quality. Politics aside, and with quite a few glaring exceptions, these publishing houses, mainstream or not, do provide quality control, which is something the self-published ebook world sorely lacks, in my opinion.
Thankfully, if Eden Green were to be rejected by some cranker in the publishing machine it would be for the former reason, and not the latter. There are some fairly dark and/or controversial themes running through, both implicit and explicit, which I thought were tastefully handled by the author. The premise is interesting and the plot was engaging until the very end. As a work of rational fiction it was well-deserving of the name, with thoughts and actions clearly laid out and thought through. Some very interesting questions are explored later on in the book about personal identity and the nature of humanity. If it comes down to a do read this or don’t then it’s definite do.
I felt it was important for me to pass verdict on this book before writing this section, as there are several things which I felt needed to be addressed and I didn’t want anyone getting the impression I didn’t like the book. In all fairness to Van Dahl, this is a good book and these are complex issues which could be represented in a variety of ways through different narrative devices which I felt were under-utilised in several instances. Without delving too much into it so as not to give away details of the plot, I felt the whole thing was unfinished. In the sense of a finish on a piece of furniture. This is full of the obvious potential to be a better book than it is, which makes me a little melancholy. I feel it would benefit from a little time spent in contemplation.
Another limitation, but a positive one (at least I think so) is that the nature and full implications of the needles’ presence and effects on the human body aren’t explored as much as they could have been. Partly because they couldn’t be outside of a lab in the far future, but also because of the effect it would have on the pace of the story, which is fast and completely fitting.
Character-wise I felt I would have benefited from a little more exploration into Eden’s past life. I came out of the book mostly liking her but not entirely sure I knew who she was. Given the nature of the book this may have been intentional, but I still felt a little empty.
Oh, the synopsis. Why is it so hard for people to write a synopsis? This may be what it feels like to slowly grow to hate something. Not that I’ve never been in hate before, but usually it’s hate-at-first-sight or like, a switch trips inside of me and I suddenly hate something with all my spleen, or at least about 80% of it, with room for it to swell alarmingly later on at future bursts of feeling. Good books with bad, or misleading, or oversharing synopses. Good books with synopses written by people who didn’t read the book, or didn’t understand it, or sometimes obviously don’t make a habit of reading the particular genre in which the book is written. Really this one isn’t so bad, it just oversells it a little bit. There’s a dash of oversharing as we learn Tedrin isn’t really a good guy. I would go on to argue the focus of the book and the focus of the synopsis are a little different. A little though, not a lot.
I don’t like the name Tedrin. Which is a little unfair to say, it’s probably just me.
To reiterate; Eden Green is an interesting, original story with a few flaws and the capacity for greatness.