Plague Birds by Jason Sanford
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This book has a good premise, but I don't think the execution lived up to it. It's the story of an Earth approximately twenty thousand years in the future, with extreme genetic engineering, nanoteched AIs, and humans with animal genes. We have a post-collapse society in the aftermath of a war between those same AIs, who have demanded that humans leave their cities and global civilization behind to return to small villages, each watched over by an AI, until they have returned to a more "natural" (i.e. less engineered) state. So-called "plague birds" enforce this state of affairs: humans each bearing a nanotech AI in their body and blood, a bloodthirsty artificial intelligence with the power to judge and kill.
Crista of the village of Day's End is coerced and manipulated into becoming a plague bird, and the book is the story of her journey to find out about her past, about the mother who was killed by another plague bird years ago, and just who she is and the part she has to play in the world's future. This is all well and good, but neither the worldbuilding or the characterization in this book was deep enough or explored enough to suit its setup. Crista in particular was an annoyingly passive protagonist, dragged here and there by her AI, Red Day, and reacting to what others do to her instead of seizing the moment, laying down the law, and breaking free from the various and layered manipulations that have marked her life. The testy relationship between Crista and Red Day was also fairly shallow, and Red Day's admitting in the book's final pages that Crista had "changed" it didn't feel earned to me at all.
(Also, the characters in this book scream at each other way too much? It got on my nerves to the point where I wanted to do a search-and-replace for that word and eliminate almost all instances of it. And this may be a persnickety nitpick, but the font was too small and I believe contributed to my recent need to buy stronger reading glasses.)
I think this could have been a more interesting story if the author had dug deeper into his world and characters. As it is, it's just so-so, and won't stick with me for longer than it takes to donate it to the library.
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