Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation

 
4.3 (2)
 
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Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation
Author(s)
Publisher
Age Range
8+
Release Date
June 21, 2022
ISBN
978-0593350393
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Hana Hsu can’t wait to be meshed.
 
If she can beat out half her classmates at Start-Up, a tech school for the city’s most talented twelve-year-olds, she’ll be meshed to the multiweb through a neural implant like her mom and sister. But the competition is fierce, and when her passion for tinkering with bots gets her mixed up with dangerous junkyard rebels, she knows her future in the program is at risk.
 
Even scarier, she starts to notice that something’s not right at Start-Up—some of her friends are getting sick, and no matter what she does, her tech never seems to work right. With an ominous warning from her grandmother about being meshed, Hana begins to wonder if getting the implant early is really a good idea.
 
Desperate to figure out what’s going on, Hana and her friends find themselves spying on one of the most powerful corporations in the country—and the answers about the mystery at Start-Up could be closer to home than Hana’s willing to accept. Will she be able to save her friends—and herself— from a conspiracy that threatens everything she knows?

Editor reviews

2 reviews
Science Heavy Science Fiction
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
Hana lives in a much changed Virginia in 2053. Now, corporations dictate the way society operates much more than politics, technology is everywhere and people's brains are "enmeshed", wired into the internet (some even use the term "Brain Jack", hearkening back to Falkner's 2010 title!), and because of the ascendency of the tech company I Ching, Chinese culture is widespread and popular. Hana's mother is a well regarded and powerful geneticist working long hours for I Ching, but her father was recently killed in his line of work as a hostage negotiator. Her older sister, Lin, is due to become enmeshed, and Hana worries that the two won't be as close afterwards. She makes one of her small automata to give to her, and has an interesting run in with a scavenger in the dump in the Bottoms. The girl gives Hana a scroll with sensitive information on it, and Hana has to go back and find her. Hana is excited about going to school at Start-Up, an elite academy for those who are hard working and determined. When she finds out that the year long program will be compacted into a summer, she's even more thrilled. Her grandmother, Popo, who is in the beginning stages of dementia because she was never enmeshed, voices her concerns about this procedure and warns her not to do it. Hana makes some friends at Start-Up, like Chuck (Charlene) and Tomas, but when students start becoming ill, she wonders if the work that her mother is doing at I Ching studying zombie ant fungus and DNA has something to do with it. Aided by Ink, the girl from the dump, and her mentor Wayman, Hana and her friends work to uncover what evil the corporations must have in store while trying to do well in the school competitions in virtual reality.
Good Points
This was a brilliantly conceived futuristic society with lots of information and a fun and well explained Chinese flavor. The multiweb neural implants and widespread use of technology in the very near future (I could possibly still be alive, but I'd be 88), is incredibly detailed, and we get just enough background about the tech wars, the rise of corporations, and how society has changed since the grandmother was young in the 1990s. Start-Up is an intriguing school, and the classes and activities are ones that will appeal to my students, who are much more interested in virtual reality than I am. Hana is a well developed and likeable character who is not only facing realistic problems like her older sister's separation from her, making new friends, dealing with her father's death, and her grandmother's dementia, but also with saving the world from the evil corporations, one of which her mother works for. The Ghost Carb Nation is a group of concerned individuals who are opposed to the reach of technology, and Ink and Wayman make convincing arguments against the involvement of corporations and government into the lives of individuals. I'm siding with them and with Popo on that: stay away from my neural pathways, thank you very much. I don't even turn the WiFi on to my phone most of the time, and rarely carry it with me. We also have fun things like enmeshed cats with translators, a Ye Olde Shoppes mall where tech is blocked to recreate the 1990s, and reading old school I Ching.

I do so wish this had started out as more of a EUtopia, like Condie's Matched. I felt like Hana was exposed to the seedy underbelly of society way too soon, and the grip of the corporation would have been more wrenching had she been more absolutely thrilled with her world. Also, why does every vision of the future involve form fitting spandex? Is the original Star Trek to blame for the evils of running tights and leggings as pants?

There haven't been a lot of good dystopian novels lately, and this is great for readers who are really interested in technology, and again, there aren't that many newer books about this (see also the aforementioned Brain Jack, Kincaid's 2012 Insignia, Dashner's 2013 Eye of Minds, or Klavan's 2014 Mindwar.) Hand to readers who enjoyed McCullough's Jinxed, Hautman's The Flinkwater Factor, or Korman's Masterminds.
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People should be free to think.
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What worked:
The template for the story is familiar so it will be easy to follow the plot. Hana dreams of attending Start-Up like her older sister but she soon learns that something nefarious is going on at the school. Large corporations are presented as the antagonists while their motives remain secret. Why would they care about different fungi and parasites and what does that have to do with the school? Hana tiptoes into the center of the drama as she reluctantly gets drawn in and she’s assisted by two classmates. The new friends have differing opinions throughout the book which offers a twist to a familiar story. Tomas is withholding a secret that will eventually be revealed to his friends.
Some moral issues concerning technology are at the forefront of the plot. The right to privacy is in doubt as all citizens are meshed, their brains becoming connected to the multiweb. It allows instant contact with friends, games, and news, but the corporations are also able to track everything people do. In addition, a point is made that the control of knowledge is power. People feel informed due to electronic connections to information but who’s controlling the news? Brainwashing is highly possible when corporations can decide what information and “truth” to share with the public. Hana’s own family finds itself on both sides of the issue of anti-tech and becoming enmeshed.
Hana’s character bridges the conflict between corporations and the rebellion against technology. The corporations are starting to control her school as traditions and procedures are changed. Hana discovers things feel wrong and some of her technology doesn’t work properly. She likes to build small, mechanical bots and frequently visits the Junkyard looking for parts she can use and recycle. She meets a tough girl named Ink and becomes drawn into the untold world of technology. Ghost Crab Nation refers to the name of a major anti-tech group. Hana is forced to face the conflicting stories of being meshed and must rethink her future. To complicate matters, Hana’s mother works at the largest corporation in the world and her research places her at the center of a covert plot.
What didn’t work as well:
The early chapters of the book share the common story framework of secret, evil things going on behind the scenes at a character’s dream school. However, the rest of the plot morphs into an engaging conspiracy with many unexpected twists and turns. More surprises await even after Hana figures out what’s actually happening.
The Final Verdict:
People should be free to think. The plot considers issues related to technology as it continues to become more invasive in our lives. Hana’s friends and family provide different perspectives on the issues but struggles with both groups add additional problems for her character. I recommend you give this book a shot!
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