As I was looking at various books coming out this Fall, I kept seeing the book cover for Debris, Book #1 in the Veiled World Trilogy, by Jo Anderton. The cover artwork looked interesting but I mistook the novel for something it wasn’t. When I read a couple of very early reviews, I became intrigued by the concept and decided to try to snag an advanced readers copy from Angry Robot, the publisher. I’m really glad I did! Although Debris is considered a fantasy by some reviewers, to me it’s more a mix of science fiction and fantasy with some steampunk elements included. However you want to label its genre, it deals with issues that are very topical.
As a master architect on her world, Tanyana is one of the most privileged. With her 9-member circle, she mentally guides and manipulates pion particles into building and sculpting wondrous buildings and sculptures which are admired by all. As she is in the process of building a masterpiece sculpture of Grandeur, she is surprised by a bureaucratic inspection team who want to observe her circle’s work to ensure the sculpture is meeting all regulations and criteria.
“It was the stronger pions, the lights that kept themselves hidden, dim, that together, my critical circle and I could manipulate. It took all nine of us to pry them free, to entice their cooperation and set them to work. But once we did, oh the wonders we could create.”
Tanyana is standing high in the air on the beams that make up the Grandeur sculpture’s wrist, while working with her team to create and lift one of its huge hands into place, when something goes terribly wrong. Her circle struggles to hold the pion particles together while some sort of wild, angry red pions sweep the area, bent on destruction. Then they invade all of the circle members’ minds, knocking them unconscious and literally knocking Tanyana off of the statue, dashing her to the ground far below and utterly destroying her masterpiece.
When Tanyana recovers enough from all of her injuries to wake, she learns she is no longer an architect. A tribunal has also judged her guilty of causing the accident. The extensive injuries she sustained have not just left her with physical scars but have also removed her ability to even see pions, much less work with them. After she is tested, she is told she will be working with debris instead and, before she is even healed, she is promptly surgically implanted with skin suit technology to protect her from the debris that forms when circles work with pions.
“I watched him from the corner of my eye and wondered if I could trust him…’What test?’ I placed the glass back on the table carefully. My hand shook…’The veche need to know if you can see debris, they need to know if you will be a collector. A debris collector.’ [the technician said] All I could think about was Grandeur as she fell. All I could think about was emptiness. A debris collector. That was impossible. I was an architect, a highly skilled architect. Nothing less.”
She and everyone she knows in her world’s society consider debris collectors to be the lowest of the low, and now she is one. How could that happen? She believes someone is responsible for the event that knocked her off of the Grandeur statue and destroyed her life but whom? And where did those horribly destructive red pions come from? She’s determined to discover the answer to both of those questions, even if no one will listen to her or believe her.
Tanyana is assigned to a debris collecting team of oddball characters, who for the most part resent the hell out of her because she has been privileged and they live in poverty. They’re sure she won’t measure up and will be a detriment to the team. As Tanyana gains more confidence, she begins using skills she learned as an architect to gather debris during life threatening emergencies. Those successful new strategies cause her to win the respect of her team.
Having a team again, combined with finding a safe, cheap place to live and real-life guardians who protect her from the spying veche men and help to educate her, makes her feel like her life has renewed purpose. That gives her the strength to fight horrendous battles for her world’s continued existence and make amazing discoveries she never would have believed possible.
Debris has technology at its heart, including disturbing, surreal veche men. Having it written from Tanyana’s point of view makes it come to life from the first page and gives it a lot of heart, so the technology just becomes part of the world construct. It was a quick read for me, mainly because I couldn’t put it down once I started it. I loved all of the debris team members, including the curmudgeons, and wanted the technologist who made Tanyana’s suit to be the hero she thought he was. Was he? I’m not telling. I could very easily envision every aspect of her world, thanks to excellent world building that was not intrusive and did not contain lengthy exposition. Hurray!
Bottom Line: If you want a novel that will sweep you up and take you to another world where a kick-ass heroine will do battle to right wrongs and save her planet, then you are going to thoroughly enjoy Debris! I know I did!
Debris was released in the U.S. on September 27, 2011 and is being released in the rest of the world during the same approximate time frame, so it should be available from your favorite bookseller.
I’d love to get your comments on Debris, the subject matter, Jo Anderton, and/or this review!
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