Anne Harris returns with an outstanding look at the near future. Never before has her technological insight been so acute, or her portrayal of sex and gender issues more startling or insightful.
A bio-technology corporation has created a new species, intelligent, four-armed, humanoid “tetras” who can live in the vats in which “the company” grows biopolymers. Both the tetras and the human vat-divers they were created to replace are at the mercy of vicious corporate politics. But soon the victims become the aggressors, and something amazing, a transcendent change, occurs not only in their lives, but throughout the world. Anne Harris has created an extraordinary, breathtaking vision of the future.
Anne Harris’s second novel welcomes readers to the Detroit of the future—a city of extreme poverty and extravagant wealth, were every life is overshadowed by the megalithic biotech corporation GeneSys. With the rise of maglev transportation and the death of the auto industry, the name Motor City has become an anachronism. There are no jobs except GeneSys jobs. One can either pass an exam and obtain an office job at GeneSys headquarters or work in the dangerous biopolymer-growing vats in Vattown. Chango Chichelski, a sport (a mutant from exposure to lethal growth medium in the vats) with a passionate love of the Detroit of her grandmother’s stories, chooses instead to fall through the cracks. Chango lives in an ancient motor car and spends her time haunting (and committing to memory) buildings slated for demolition.
Her life changes when she rescues, and then falls in love with, a fanged and four-armed sport named Helix. Helix is the adopted daughter of Hector Martin, the brilliant but emotionally unstable head scientist at GeneSys. Weary of her isolated life, Helix flees into Vattown, intending to become a vat diver. But her plan is opposed by Chango, whose union-organizer sister Ada died after contact with the vat’s growth medium, and by the vat divers themselves, who refuse to accept a sport within their ranks.
Accidental Creatures is an action-packed tale full of intrigue, betrayals, and flashy characters. Interestingly, the sports of the Vattown underworld—drug dealers, junk artists, and healers—look positively normal compared to GeneSys’s corporate denizens, who scream, cry, fight, and lie outrageously to retain or advance their positions in the corporate hierarchy.
Harris’s writing style is not for everybody (for instance, readers allergic to comma splices should approach with caution). But for the less grammatically persnickety, Accidental Creatures may prove to be a rewarding tale of outsiders and identity. —Eddy Avery