RogerBW's Blog

Bitter Angels, C L Anderson 26 June 2020

2009 science fiction. The Erasmus system is run on debt-slavery, water monopoly, and a panopticon, but it seems they're going to launch a war against Earth. So Earth's government sends a team of Guardians to work out what's happening, and stop it. Of course it's not as simple as that.

This is a book about plots within plots, and secret manipulators getting people to do what the manipulators wanted and think it was their own idea all along.

"You wanted to see if I would make a good dupe," she snapped, and instantly pressed her white-knuckled hand against her mouth.

"And if that was all you had proved to be, that would have been how I used you," [X] replied calmly. "But you have turned out to be much more than that."

But it's also about a retired peacekeeper called back to the job even though she has a husband and family now; and about what you can trust when all your senses are being manipulated.

In structure this is quite a conventional book, and I found it hard to believe in the specificity of the master plotter's manipulations, but there's a solidity to this setting which holds together even when individual components seem weak.

Anderson is a pseudonym of Sarah Zettel, whose early Fool's War I enjoyed tremendously. This is rather darker than I remember that being; there are many viewpoint characters, and most of them don't get what they want. And most of the characters are suffering from one or another kind of past trauma; it's not at all a cheerful book, for all that at least a few of the characters get happy-ish endings. But I was rather impressed with it overall.

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