Perilous Waif: Different, cool and a very good read.

Perilous Waif (Alice Long #1) by E. William Brown
My rating: 10 out of 10 stars

perilous-waifMy name is Alice Long, and I’ve always known I was different.

When I was little I used to climb up to the highest branches of the housetree at night, and watch the starships docking at the orbital stations high above. Forty meters off the ground, watching ships thirty thousand kilometers overhead, with senses that could pick out radar pings and comm chatter as easily as the ships themselves. It all seemed perfectly natural at the time.

There were other kids with mods at the orphanage, but nothing like that. I learned fast to downplay my abilities, keep my mouth shut and try to blend in. Even as a kid I knew not to trust the Matrons. What would they do, if they realized the Adjustments that were supposed to make me a meek little herd animal didn’t do anything?

Then I messed up, and gave myself away.

Now I’m on the run, hoping against hope that the Matrons won’t try too hard to find me. Hoping to survive all the awful things that can happen to a girl on her own in space. Kidnappers, slavers, pirates and yakuza – no matter where I go, trouble always seems to find me.

Good thing I’m not as helpless as I look.

This book is rather different from a lot of books that I have read. The story is not that uncommon: A lone child with special powers adventures into space. However, her powers and how they develop is rather unique and so is the setting. I really liked it.

The book starts one some backwater planet, run by fanatical women, where technology is scoffed on and everyone are supposed to live “in harmony” with nature. Those who do not comply will be brainwashed. Naturally everyone is supposed to eat only vegetarian food etc. etc. In short the wet dream of the green and gender fanatics.

Naturally our heroin do not really fit in very well. Especially since she has implants that go against the anti-technology dimwits on the planet and she craves meat (oh horror) as well. What can a girl do when in such a horrible situation. Oh, escape on a private freighter with a jolly crew not always adhering to the letter of the law, also called smugglers, of course.

Her escape is aided by a beautiful and quite likable android who also happens to be part of the crew of the above mentioned freighter. Once aboard she meets the captain. A rather intimidating character that also turns out to be quite likable in the end. I wrote freighter but the ship in question is just as much as warship as a freighter. She is packed to the gills with all kind of interesting hardware that, if applied properly, makes things go boom.

The universe she (and we) enters is filled with androids, cyborgs, humans altered on a genetic level, war bots and all kinds of different inhabitants. The book uses nanites quite a lot as well. One thing that is a bit different in this book, compared to my usual reads, is the fact that a lot of the universe is about Japanese crime clans. The Yakzua etc.

Another thing that is different is the way Alice’s power works, especially how they develop. A lot of books use implants as a plot element but Alice’s implants hold a quantum computer of rather significant power. Also, Alice’s implants actually develops, grows and matures as Alice’s biological body develops. She is not just developing her existing enhancements but her body is actually building new cybernetic “organs”, like power supplies, shield projectors etc. Once she is freed of the confines of the green nuts and properly feed this process goes into overdrive and her powers develop from cool to awesome.

Naturally the story is not just about having awesome powers but Alice, who is quite young, also develops a lot as a character. She makes plenty of new friends and pretty much everyone she befriends are interesting, different and very likable characters.

Slowly the book moves towards the main plot of the story and Alice eventually learns that she is not just any kid left on a orphanage. She is much more special and important than that. The main plot also brings us some nice fights for Alice and it all culminates in a rather spectacular big fight at the end as well as some huge revelations. Most of the second half of the book involves Japanese crime clans which introduces a necessity of observing a certain decorum instead of just blasting everything in sight.

At the end I would say that the stage is set for a few more nice books in the series and I for one is looking forward to read them. It is a quite cool universe that the author has built.