I regret that I read this, the second book in the series, without ever reading the first book. I found the continued story difficult to follow. It seems unfair to judge it on its own merits when it apparently wasn’t meant to be read as a stand-alone, but I’ll do the best I can.
Crashland is a sci-fi fantasy, set in the indeterminate future where technology has reached levels that seem to blend elements of Star Trek (i.e. transporters and replicators) with the capabilities—and ethical conundrums--of Altered Carbon (i.e. swapping people’s consciousnesses into other people’s bodies). The abuses of this tech is the basis for the plot and ongoing conflict readers are dropped into, immediately following the events in Twinmaker. What exactly those events were wasn’t clear to this reader throughout most of the book, unfortunately.
We open with the heroine (and sole third-person POV), Clair, being detained and questioned by two peacekeepers (PKs)—the law enforcement arm of the singular world government. Somehow she is responsible for the entire world’s network of transportation (teleportation?) crashing after she foiled the plans of someone named Wallace—who may or may not be dead, along with her friends Zep and Libby. Clair hopes to restore the d-mat (which I am guessing is slang for de-materializer?) so she can get to the saved patterns of her friends and essentially resurrect them. Clair herself is not actually the original version of herself, having been brought back from the pattern saved by a mysterious Artificial Intelligent entity called ‘Q.’ Q is the wild card amid the worldwide chaos. Everyone wants to get a hold of the A.I., and everyone—regardless of affiliation—seems to assume that Clair can somehow facilitate that. From there the vast majority of our journey with Clair involves her and her entourage almost constantly fleeing.
I’m certainly not one for pace-dragging info dumping, but the lack of comprehensive recap and background information made it difficult to track and/or feel engaged with the story. The assumption seems to be that the reader has read the first book, and recently enough that they still grasp the politics, fantastical tech, and world-building minutia. The cast of existing and mentioned characters is quite extensive, and factional names like WHOLE, VIA, and RADICAL (along with an array of slang terms) are thrown out with little or no explanation. It’s also asserted early on that there is no way of telling a “real” person apart from their duplicate, yet it becomes clear that ‘Dupes’ aren’t at all identical to their original versions. Some can apparently contain multi-detonation bombs within them (that for some reason can’t be detected), and by the end it turns out that fabricated matter does indeed differ from “real” matter in a known and critical way.
Beyond the general plot confusion, the relational interactions fell a bit flat—largely, I suspect, because readers are given little basis for both the romantic and platonic bonds Clair had formed in the previous installment. I think this quote adequately sums up the issue:
"She didn't clearly remember their faces, of their voices, or anything they had done together. They had become holes in her life where real people had once been. Absences rather than presences."
Therein lies much of the trouble I had with this story. Clair references back to these dead people she wants to bring back and a mother she wants to protect, but I had no emotional sense for what they meant to her. Add to that an ending that pulls a reverse Deus ex machina (Diabolus ex machina? Whatever you’d call it when a catastrophic incident comes out of nowhere to cause an apocalypse-level cliffhanger.)
On The Upside:
Clair does present as a strong and sufficiently introspective heroine. The author portrays the frequent action sequences with vivid ease, and a distinctly pleasing literary voice. The twist toward the end was both interesting and satisfying. And this reviewer particularly appreciated the idea of the Abstainers (Stainers)—people who refused to use the artificial matter-making/matter-transporting technology—who are shunned and persecuted for their simplicity of lifestyle.
While I don’t think this series is for me, I would be interested to pick up something else by this author.