RogerBW's Blog

Cry Pilot, Joel Dane 08 December 2021

2019 young adult SF, first of a trilogy. Maseo Kaytu is a former child terrorist, who enlists because he feels a need to make up for some of the harm he did. But it's a crapsack world, and the only way he can get in at all is by volunteering for the suicide units…

It's an odd sort of book. On one side the plot scaffolding is very evident: the CAVs, vehicles designed by the ascended-and-gone AIs and not really understood by humans, need a human inside them to work, but humans can't drive them so they're operated remotely. So the "cry pilots" are prisoners who get one mission manacled into the things, then if they're still alive their debt to society is paid. And if you can't tell from that that our hero is going to be the first person actually to pilot a CAV from the inside, well, you haven't been paying attention to story forms.

At the same time, we get a lot of Boot Camp, slightly modified from the generic milsf in that there's less of the running around playing wargames and being introduced to the shiny tech, and more of the squad bonding, that thing that everyone who's seen combat says some variant of: "I wasn't doing it for my country, I just didn't want to look bad in front of my mates".

At a bank of autocarts, I'm given a duffel rig with /Kaytu/5323/dekka-2/ temprinted on the side. My lens tells me the rig contains fatigues and a pair of weave overalls, toiletries. Patch kits, a multi-tool, camo parka, and aerosol underwear.

There's also a complimentary breath mint, courtesy of Lhasa Industrial Glazing.

I'm not sure what to make of that.

But there's also interesting worldbuilding: "the terrafixing" is a massive autonomous system that is gradually turning the ecosystem back into something viable. Meanwhile humans live in crowded cities under corporate control. But occasionally the terrafixing interacts with biologically-derived weapons from the big nasty war, and produces monsters that come out and attack cities, and that's the main job of the military (aside from suppressing "patriots" when they get too shooty for the police). Our hero's branch is training to deal with a new class of monster, which nobody really knows anything about…

Kaytu, alas, doesn't come over as a terribly interesting character. He's got his problems and quirks, but they define his personality so completely that it's quite easy to work out how he'll respond to any given problem. He changes a little, but he's pushed around by overwhelming force much more than he's a protagonist in his own right. His random friend from the suicide unit turns out to be a walking plot device who can do whatever the story needs to happen next.

The writing works quite well, though: terms are thrown in without explanation because everyone in the world would know what they mean and this is a first-person narrative, but one can work out from context that say a "flowcore processor" is a shiny sort of computer component, and that's all one really needs. The action sequences are suitably gripping while maintaining a sense of orientation.

Not a favourite book, and it could do with a bit of trimming of the repetitive sequences of preparation, battle, recovery, but I enjoyed this rather more than I expected to after an unpromising start.

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Series: Cry Pilot | Next in series: Burn Cycle

  1. Posted by Dr Bob at 12:15pm on 08 December 2021

    Do why to the CAVs need a human inside if the human doesn't do anything? Couldn't they shove in a dog or sheep instead if they just need a living creature???

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 12:44pm on 08 December 2021

    Watson: The AIs built them that way. Nobody knows why.

    Doyle: so that Our Hero can be the first person to drive one.

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