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Bantam paperback £6.99
review by Tony Lee
If the seemingly endless praise heaped upon Idlewild accurately represents the general critical reaction to Nick Sagan's debut, then I must be in a minority here because I didn't enjoy that book much. In this sequel, biotech corporation Gedaechtnis' post-plague, GM children are now in their mid-thirties, and have since produced offspring cloned from a stash of 'corpsicles'. The new kids comprise an all-female group in Germany, genetically enhanced and taught atheism by embittered geneticist Vashti, and another unmodified, mixed 'family', raised under Islam in Egypt by Sufi scientist Isaac.
The protagonist of Idlewild, Halloween, doesn't have anything much to do in this next generation storyline until the last third of the book, although his absence until the final chapters has a profound affect upon everyone. Edenborn is mostly about post-human teenage diarist, Penny, and devout young Muslim, Haji, who's wise beyond his years. It also concerns lonesome Pandora and her unrequited love for self-exiled Halloween, and it tells of mysterious newcomer, Deuce, who brings chaos and tragedy to two continents before the end. Details of the rapidly shifting cliques, alliances, and sometimes amusing interactions between all-too-human 'cousins' from northern and southern camps forms the heart of the narrative, and yet, as in the writer's previous book, damaging elements like the feeble humour of authorial pedantry and irritatingly pretentious anecdotes still creep to the fore, diverting attention from this appealing chronicle of superhuman folly. Sagan's attempts to create a weirdly futuristic mythology show definite signs of growth, if not maturity, in this second outing.
An improvement on Idlewild, then, if not by much, Edenborn offers marginally more fun in the VR department (at least Sagan often now refers to it as 'Inside', instead of the redundant 'Immersive' Virtual Reality), and the multiethnic teens and a wider variety of settings boosted my interest by presenting more scope for comedy, action and SF ideas, happily not confined to activities in digital realms. That focus on commonplace VR was a major failing of Idlewild, I thought, but Sagan avoids repeating the mistake here.
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