Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross

Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross (unabridged audiobook read by Emily Gray; 12 hrs on 10 discs): It’s the far future, and our narrator is Krina, a sort of being we might consider to be somewhere between an android and a clone. It’s several thousand years in the future, and almost nothing is familiar to someone from the 21st century, from the extreme genetic modifications to the spaceship planets to the monetary system. In fact, I felt like there was too much going on here. I like extensive world-building, especially in science fiction, but I had a lot of trouble keeping up. It didn’t help that many of the differences between Krina’s world and our own were explained in lengthy essays on the different speeds of money, financial fraud, semi-autonomous clones, mermaids, and bats, rather than as a natural part of the plot. Had the people been physically familiar with a crazy economic system (I never quite got the hang of slow money); or barely humanoid cyborg clones living on a planet without needing to organize their economy around slower-than-light space travel; or the plot focused mainly on the interactions between clones, their originals, copied soul chips, and the tricky ethics thereof; or the characters had been either bat-humans or insurance pirates but not both; or even just focusing on the underused Church of the Fragile, a cult dedicated to humans without any physical modifications — any of those alone could have been fascinating. All of them stuffed into a single novel got in the way of the story. I had a lot of trouble following what was going on and keeping the characters straight. There is surely a very specific audience who would love this sort of ultra-exotic science fiction, but I prefer my story/concept balance to be tipped just a little bit further toward the former.

A note on the audio: Gray is a splendid reader, but this was a little strange for me because the audiobook I finished just before this was also read by her, but completely different (one of Jasper Fforde’s delightfully silly Thursday Next novels), so it took me a while to get accustomed to the new crop of characters using her voice.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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