Saturday, June 19, 1999

Title: Queen City Jazz
Author: Kathleen Ann Goonan
Publisher: Harper Collins

"Information theory applies to DNA as well as to all forms of communications. There is a certain mathematically predictable loss."

Like a sink full of water, by opening the cover of Queen City Jazz you pull the plug. Initially you don't notice the difference, but the forces build steadily as pages spiral relentlessly from right to left. A countdown to a compelling suction, a point of no return. Where a very finite number of pages lie ahead and those must be read and read now!

As a child Verity was taken from the Edge Town of Cincinnati to live amongst the Shaker community. Despite the fact that she is deemed clear of nan plague, there are strange lumps behind her ears which suggest she is different. She is brought up by this community free of technology, a reaction to the nan plagues and information wars which followed the rise of the Flower Cities. Eventually a time comes when Verity must return to Cincinnati - the Queen of The Flower Cities.

Blaze has been shot and is being kept alive by a nan contraption. As Verity's best friend, she hopes that the City will hold the secret to his recovery along with that of her dog Cairo. Almost like The Wizard Of Oz, Verity follows the river to the magical and enlivened city of Cincinnati with Blaze and her dog Cairo in tow. Once there she finds herself immersed in the cycles of the bess, flowers and people of the city gone wrong. In search of information she starts to become involved in the City's history and the designs of its architect. Coming to the realisation that she is in fact significant to the City's development and that her arrival is part of the endless cycle.

The three main characters Verity, Blaze and Sphere are all seekers. Looking for their own gifts and solutions from the power of the city. Each character works well for the reader and integrates into the essential plot in the transformations that their seeking causes. While the characters are strong and drive the plot, there are many technological devices which catalyze the story. We are offered the development of a complex informational structure. Engineered bees and flowers run the intelligent city - transmitters and manufacturers of nanotechnological programs in the form of metapheromones. One of the prime subtexts of the story is the examination of life and technologies affect on it. A classic theme of SF, which is shaped by Goonan's nan. A technology able to imitate and generate any material - even flash. A technology able to imitate and generate any emotion and memory. Given that what do we become - especially when we become he mechanism that feeds the mechanism intended to feed us?

Immensely readable story - flowing well through engaging characters - post apocalypse to future hope. Easily entering my favourite book list and all based on reading the short story Sunflowers in the Nanotech collection.

June 1999

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