Canadian Author and ecologist Nina Munteanu combines gritty science fiction with environmental activism in Angel of Chaos.
“In 2095 Darwin’s evolution kills. Darwin’s Disease is tearing apart the ordered peace of North America. Julie Crane is a brilliant data handler with a unique talent for finding the impossible fast, and getting into trouble faster. Her relentless search for a cure leads her to a horrifying discovery that incriminates her in a heinous conspiracy to recast humankind.”
Julie Crane is the only bystander who stops a stranger with Darwin’s Disease from killing herself. The police take the woman away but the effect of Julie’s actions aren’t so easily removed. Nor is the voice in her head, the A.I. named SAM with whom she can communicate without the assistance of her vee-set. In Munteanu’s dystopian city of Icaria, a mysterious woman monitors veemelds like Julie for a sinister purpose. Veemelds can connect with Artificial Intelligence without the use of technology.
Julie is a vibrant character, who tests the limits of the powerful people above her both unintentionally and knowingly. This isn’t surprising, considering her upbringing in the slums of Icaria. However, she’s acutely aware that her reformed adult life and recent promotion can be taken away from her at any time. Then she learns that her life may also be at risk simply by doing her job properly.
Icaria is divided by a rigidly controlled class system. In Angel of Chaos, Munteanu creates a North America layered with political groups each with their own competing agendas and secrets. Complicating the hierarchy is the role of robots and artificial intelligence. People live physically and emotionally isolated from nature’s truest gifts. In this future North America, freedom is only a perception that is, at times, uncomfortably harsh.
Julie is the protagonist but this book if full of characters with their own agenda, each playing off the other. Also, is appears that Julie doesn’t know the truth about her father’s death. As the plot unfolds and the connections emerge, I found myself as interested in each of their stories as much as I was in Julie’s.
I’m not surprised about this, given Munteanu’s gift for description and imagery. Whether in her fight scenes or the brutal Shame Court, Munteanu ignites a fire in her reader’s imagination. Her description of the wild hills outside the enclosed city of Icaria clearly reveal Munteanu’s passion for ecology.
In fact, it’s the honesty in Munteanu’s writing which makes reading Angel of Chaos most distressing. For example, the scenes in the Shame Court are disturbing not because of their detail, but because we have the potential as a society to engage in that level of public degradation as punishment. She creates a world that mirrors the darker parts of our own.
Beneath the conflicts in the seemingly random path of Julie Crane, Munteanu writes of the themes of love and salvation for the future of human nature, and that of Mother Nature. A grand scheme faces Julie, with several key players from different teams, but I sense she is part of a deeper problem.
I enjoyed Angel of Chaos, not least of which because of the divergent realms of society Munteanu created. My biggest complaint reflects upon my personal experiences: most of the characters are able bodied without disabilities. Few of the characters reflect a race or culture that isn’t generically Euro-centric, even though Munteanu has created her own version of a future. Toronto transformed into the futuristic Icaria could have had a larger sampling of the current diversity of the city, in my humble opinion. However, this is doesn’t distract from the intensity of the story.
The story of Julie Crane isn’t for those with queasy stomachs. If you enjoy sci-fi, I highly recommend Angle of Chaos. The book is full of intrigue, action and (wholly believable) imagined futuristic technology.
Published by Dragon Moon Press, Oct 17, 2010
ISBN 978-1897492123, Trade Paperback, 306 pages
Follow Nina on Twitter: @AlienNextDoor
This book has a sequel: Darwin’s Paradox.
I did not receive any money, service or product for this review.