When the ecotecture starts to degrade on the asteroid of Mymercia-killing a workgroup on the surface-Fola Hanani miraculously survives. A former missionary, she's hacked a living out of a gengineered ecology built after the Armageddon of overheating, overpopulation, over-everything. Now she has to find out what's causing a catastrophic biosystem failure before everyone else on Mymercia is killed. Meanwhile, onworld, in a trailer park of migrant workers, a washed-out one-hit wonder named L. Mariachi plays the guitar for a community suffering from a contagious form of soul loss. It's a song that Fola's implanted IA-information agent-thinks she needs to hear. Because what is happening to these lost souls is spreading at quantum speed to everyone else. Something or someone is trying to reprogram the system with the ultimate virus. And as virtuality becomes reality in this post-ecocaust world of plug-in sex components, old-world medicine women, and the cheesiest pop culture, humanity itself is about to crash....
Budz's first book, Clade, drew comparisons to William Gibson; his second proves that such claims were far from hyperbole. While Gibson twisted language to imagine technology evolved far beyond our present frame of reference, Budz instead fetishizes the wet areas where tech physically interfaces with people (Kevin Anderson coined the phrase "BioPunk" to describe Clade). A challenge to both the imagination and the intellect, the first few chapters are dense with confusing jargon and unheard-of social schemas; readers are thrown into this brave new world without a guide (nor a glossary, for that matter, making at least one reread essential). But a story quickly emerges: at some point in the future, years after an "ecocaust" has decimated the world we know and given rise to a tech-dependent society that barely resembles our own, a lethal virus is spreading among the workers on a populated asteroid called Mymercia, and threatens to worm its way through all humanity. In Budz's world, as in Gibson's, story takes a backseat to setting; this is not so much about the race against time as it is about a society that's fresher and far more arcane (neuroelectrical drug delivery, churches that own their parishioners, drugs that facilitate basic human relationships) than anything Terry Gilliam or George Orwell has imagined. Budz's unusual wordplay draws variously on the scientific rationality of Asimov, the drug-addled hangover visions of William Burroughs and the playful spirit of Dr. Seuss. Budz may be poised to become hard SF's next superstar. Agent, Matt Bialer. (Nov. 23) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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November 22, 2004
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Excerpt from Crache by Mark Budz
BURDEN OF FAITH
The cross weighs on Fola. Even in the micro-g of the asteroid it seems to exert a downward pull. The sensation is more mental than physical. She knows that. The slave-pherions that bound her to the Jesuettes have been cut out with chemical scalpels. But her mind still registers the weight of the cross the way it would the phantom pain of a severed limb.
A good thing. That's why she wears the cross, to remember. What she was back on earth. Who she is now.
The cross is a mystery in other ways. Lately, the stone it was cut from has grown heavier, the need to remember more insistent. She finds herself fingering the glass--smooth surface and cracked fragments of embedded bone, absently polishing them in response to some vague, nameless anxiety.
Ephraim. It has to be. Her tuplet buddy's dour moods are seeping into her, a slow capillary trickle through the biodigital wires that connect them. It isn't just concern for his sister. That worry was there from the beginning. This is different. Something else is going on. Another wound has opened up, spilling fresh blood.
Fola never feels comfortable visiting Ephraim, even though they're biochemical siblings and she should be able to empathize with him. His hexcell makes her uneasy. Her mouth goes dry, her palms clammy. A kind of reverse Pavlovian response, according to Pheidoh. Her IA is always offering unwanted and unhelpful psychoanalysis, datamined from the mediasphere.
What bothers her is the decor. Ephraim has graffixed the hexcell's wall panels with Moorish architectural designs and motifs. It reminds her too much of the house she grew up in, before her father sold her to the Church. Circular arches. Tessellated tile patterns that hint at some highly complex but underlying order to the structure of day-to-day life. She was twelve at the time and never saw it coming. That innocence still haunts her. It steals over her like a catchy tune. She finds herself singing along without conscious thought. When that happens she has to take a step back, force the song from her head and replace it with another before she gets too carried away.
Fola's not sure why Ephraim chose the motif--what he finds comforting or appealing about it. She's afraid to ask. Part of her doesn't want to know, doesn't want to get any closer than she has to. Because of that, and his sullen temperament, she really doesn't know all that much about him. Where he came from, what his background is. All Fola knows is that he has a little sister, Lisi, who is indentured to do some kind of uterine piecework and is at risk for becoming mutilated. The details are fuzzy. But Fola gathers that she's gestating nanimatronic seed stock inside her and then giving birth to the full-grown product. If she isn't already sterile, she will be soon. And that's just the start of her medical problems.
Not all that much different from her friend Xophia, who had been saved from permanent physical injury by the Ignatarians. Fola counted herself lucky. Her father had indentured her directly to the Church. Four years as a Jesuette, shaking her booty for God, until Xophia arranged to cut her free.
Now, three years later, with the help of Ephraim and a promise to the ICLU to act as a point of contact for other refugees in the future, Fola was returning the favor.