What would it feel like to live through a biological revolution? Many science fiction writers chronicling a vast technological shift lose sight of the people who would have to deal with it. Not so Kathleen Ann Goonan, whose Crescent City Rhapsody is the third of her Nanotech Cycle novels. Each of her characters is profoundly real, and the things that happen to them are as confusing, awe-inspiring, and terrifying as you might expect.
Goonan's story begins with the assassination of Marie Laveau, New Orleans cyber-entrepreneur and grand-niece of the famous voudoun queen. By prior arrangement, Marie is resurrected into a cloned body and prepares for revenge, but she awakens into a world beset by the Silence--periodic bursts of microchip-destroying radiation from space. Enter Dr. Zeb Aberly, a bipolar astrophysicist whose manic episodes help him understand that the Silence contains an alien message and perhaps the potential to change humanity's biology radically. Meanwhile, in Japan, a young biotechnician seals her fate when she helps steal the recipe for a Universal Assembler, a nanotech tool of fearsome power and destructive capability. The stage is set for a revolution, and Goonan delivers, with complex, interwoven story lines that resemble the rhythms and structure of a jazz composition.
Brightly colored lines were inching their way up buildings like plants in a fast-growing jungle. She moved briskly, but her heart was lifeless. She was looking at her past and seeing a future that she was not a part of.
People sat leaning against buildings here and there, which was the hardest to see. They were not begging. Their brains were changing.
They were adapting to the new city.
As cities become organisms, a new generation of profoundly different humans comes of age and hope dawns in Crescent City, and Goonan directs the show with artistic flair. Crescent City Rhapsody is confusing and delightful, a swoony harmony of words swirling around crisply melodic ideas. --Therese Littleton [via]