starlady: (through the trapdoor)
[personal profile] starlady
Slonczewski, Joan. Brain Plague. New York: Tor Books, 2000.

Another Change of Hobbit, formerly of Berkeley and now of El Cerrito, is perpetually on the edge of disaster, and I picked this book up for very cheap when they were having a fire sale last fall. It was totally an impulse decision, but Brain Plague is one of the best books I've read in a good long while--fully felt, provocatively imagined, and deeply thought-provoking, this is science fiction as it should be.

Brain Plague, set in the same universe as Slonczewski's classic A Door into Ocean, follows the career of Chrysoberyl, Chris for short, an artist struggling to keep a roof over her head, to make art, to be herself. In an effort to make some extra cash she signs up for a medical trial and eventually winds up agreeing to have "micros"--a colony of atomic-level life-forms--implanted in her brain. The micros have helped some of her world's most famous artists reach new heights, and even though some of their hosts have later turned up dead, Chris agrees. Once she becomes a joint organism with her civilization of micros, however, she's drawn into the politics of those who have micros versus those who don't versus those who have been colonized by uncivilized micros. These unfortunates become addicted to the arsenic wafers that the micros need to survive: the "brain plague" of the title.

This is the second book I've read recently with an artist as the protagonist, and both Slonczewski and Alaya Dawn Johnson in The Summer Prince do a really good job of conveying the process of inspiration, creation, creativity that is how artists do what they do. I fear that as a reviewer I am inadequate to describe it very well, but Chris's art is one of the many interesting elements in the book. Another central one is the micros themselves, who are characters in their own right with their own motivations, social movements, politics, preoccupations, and pitfalls. Their interactions with Chris, and the process by which between them they help to create Chris' art, and Chris helps them to create their art, is fascinating.

I'm continually impressed with Slonczewski's combination of actually scientific science with inspired speculation, and with the fact that her plots do not rely on the standard "action" tropes of violence that are so common in the genre. As [personal profile] rachelmanija recently said of another brilliant female author, I'm convinced that in a non-sexist society Slonczewski would be exactly as famous as she deserves, which is very. Science fiction needs more books like this one; in the meantime, I'm glad she's written it.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-24 20:00 (UTC)
laurashapiro: a woman sits at a kitchen table reading a book, cup of tea in hand. Table has a sliced apple and teapot. A cat looks on. (Default)
From: [personal profile] laurashapiro
Wow, I had no idea Joan Slonczewski had written another book! I read A Door Into Ocean last year and my mind was BLOWN. I'm so glad to know there's more! Eeee!

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-24 20:16 (UTC)
laurashapiro: a woman sits at a kitchen table reading a book, cup of tea in hand. Table has a sliced apple and teapot. A cat looks on. (Default)
From: [personal profile] laurashapiro
Okay, this is the best thing that's happened to me in months. THANK YOU! ::flail::

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-24 20:31 (UTC)
oracne: turtle (Default)
From: [personal profile] oracne
I remember thinking some of the micro's dialogue was hilarious, but haven't read it since it came out.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-25 00:44 (UTC)
lnhammer: lo-fi photo of a tall, thin man - caption: "some guy" (Default)
From: [personal profile] lnhammer
I've been meaning to reread the whole sequence, starting with Door, for a while now.



starlady: Raven on a MacBook (Default)

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