Appetizer: I'm having an exceptionally difficult time figuring out how to describe this book. It's one of those books in which the actual plot doesn't become apparent until about 100 pages in and when you describe it, you don't want to ignore those first 100 pages entirely. I think the book jacket blurb person had trouble too:
Durango is playing the cards he was dealt. And it's not a good hand.
He's lost his family.
He's lost his crew.
And he's got the scars to prove it.
You don't want to mess with Durango.No, I imagine I don't want to mess with Durango.
But what does that mean? What is this book about? Except from an angry boy with scars who I don't want to mess with?
Here's my best try: Durango lives on Mars. Mars is a stinky place (literally and figuratively). An outsider, Durango works as a regulator to try to restore justice. He has an artificial intelligence implant that is named Mimi and that talks to him and is almost always sarcastic (Love her!). And he kinda-sorta, maybe, likes/loves Vienne, the girl who works for him. But their relationship is purely professional. It'd be wrong to let her know how he feels. Against the rules.
When some miners have some trouble with some Draeu (cannibals!), it falls to Durango and a rag-tag group of regulators to help them, completely unaware that their long-shot mission will have an impact on the entire planet.
Does all of that make sense?
Without hearing about the starred and positive reviews, I probably wouldn't have picked up this book. Don't get me wrong, I love sci-fi. I love humor. I love adventure. I don't like the title.
Everytime I read "Black Hole Sun" I inevitably get the Soundgarden song stuck in my head. The Soundgarden song that I don't know most of the lyrics to. It's a wee bit annoying. "Black hole sun! Black hole sun! Won't you come and wash away the raaaain," or whatever. It's a bit whiney for my taste. Plus it gives me flashbacks to middle school. Not a good time for me. Ugh.
But after I got beyond the title of flashbacks and whiney song, I really enjoyed this book. There is so much action that it's hard to put the book down. The banter between Durango and Mimi, the A.I. implant, was hilarious. (But I was confused. Mimi can read Durango's thoughts. That's fine. But can only Durango hear her when she speaks? I thought so, but toards the end of the book, I swear, someone else responds to one of Mimi's comments and I got confused. The book never explains this.)
I didn't want to stop reading, even though as far as 80 pages in, much of the background of the culture, weird sci-fi terms and Durango's own story were still unexplained (meaning this book would have been a wee bit frustrating for YA readers who aren't already fond of sci-fi).
I found that Durango reminded me a lot of Captain Mal from the Firefly series/Serenity movie. And at other moments, I was reminded of Han Solo. These certainly aren't bad comparisons for readers looking for a new bad boy sci-fi role model or crush (or am I the only nerd who is regularly on the search for a new bad boy sci-fi crush? Any one?).
Here's a chart comparing our three boys. Because I can:
I guess I kind of understood Vienne, mostly because I just though of her as being a teenage version of Zoe from Firefly.
But the others, one minute one is flirting with Durango, the next moment she's weeping and I did not understand the change. I suppose I could put on happy rose-colored glasses and argue I was fully in Durango's "guy" perspective, but I tend to think I could have used a little more character development with some of the secondary characters.
"Now come the mousies nosing out their hole, thinks Kuhru as he wipes fresh bone marrow from his snout. Three pretty little mousies. Humans. Females. Ripe and soft and full of warm blood. He shudders. It will be ecstasy to hunt them down" (p. 1).
"Mars stinks. From the depths of its rock quarries to the iron-laden dirt that covers the planet's crust, it has a pungent, metallic tang that you can taste in your mouth. And it isn't just the soil. Our polluted air is poisoned with the stink of human waste and burning fuel. The terraformed oceans stink; the newborn rivers reek; as do the lakes, which spew a perpetual efflux of sulfur. The whole planet is a compost heap, intentionally designed to rot and burn endlessly so that one day, its air will be completely breathable, and its waters capable of supporting life. But tonight the stink is so powerful, I can smell it up here. Ten kilometers above the surface. Where I'm standing on a small square platform. Looking straight down.
About to wet myself" (p. 4).
"Trouble always finds me. People like this, their desperation is inversely proportional to the amount of money in their pockets. The more they need a Regulator, the less they've got to pay for one. Not this time. Not me. No more charity works. I need paying clients. It's the curiosity that kills me. Miners? What are miners doing in New Eden?" (p. 55).
"You disappoint me, Jacob."
Here it comes.
"Your biological mother was chosen for her intelligence and physical prowess. A PhD in molecular biology who was an Olympic swimmer. The surrogate who birthed you was the finest available. Your birth was without event. Your education demanding, your training flawless. This is not your destiny, Jacob. It is your destiny to become the leader of Mars, not a common dalit mercenary."
For a moment I say nothing. Look down and away from his relentless gaze, the way I did as a child. "You made me a dalit, Father" (pp. 81-82).
Tasty Rating: !!!!