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Blackfish City: A Novel by Sam J. Miller

Blackfish City: A Novel (2018)

by Sam J. Miller

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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Dystopian cyberpulp (cli-fi division) with a more diverse cast. Some neat elements, like human-animal bonding, but not much new insight. ( )
1 vote CSRodgers | Feb 23, 2019 |
The first book of Sam J. Miller's I read, The Art of Starving, was definitely a mixed bag--good on one hand, flawed on the other (review here). In that instance, for me, the flaws won out: the book wasn't sufficiently SFF to satisfy me. Thankfully, that isn't the case here. This book is all in on its science-fictional concept: an Earth deep in the throes of climate change, with refugees and cities flooding and burning, dire enough to get a new name that says it all: the Sunken World. Governments are being overthrown and humanity is fleeing to floating cities, in particular an eight-armed city in the newly opened Arctic (because of complete icemelt, one assumes) called Qaanaaq.

This is an exploration of the horrors of climate change, but it's also an indictment of capitalism, the system that has led (and will lead, if humanity doesn't come to its senses and muzzle it) to this worldwide disaster. There is no police or law enforcement presence on Qaanaaq, and the "government," such as it is, consists of a very uneasy balance of shareholders and crime syndicates. The rich live on the upper arms of the city, One through Three, with plenty of food, room and warmth, and the poor live on the lower arms (Six through Eight), stacked worse than sardines, with dozens of people per living space and many with no homes at all, just renting sleeping bubbles for the night. Due to these conditions, there is a sexually transmitted disease called "the breaks" sweeping the city, a poorly understood disease that behaves like a virus but also seems to transmit memories from its previous hosts.

Naturally, this explosive, immoral status quo cannot stand, and the arrival of a woman on a skiff, accompanied by a nanobonded killer whale (a rather clever idea, using nanotechnology to explain what has traditionally been psychically bonded humans and animals, in SF's past) and a polar bear, is just the match to set this smoldering city alight. But we don't get the revolution right away. Instead, we get several viewpoint characters, each with their own storylines and a slow, careful braiding thereof. It's a measure of Miller's skill at characterization that all of these characters held my interest, even when I didn't have the slightest idea how or if they would eventually meet. But about halfway through the book, the death of one of the POV characters snaps everything into place and sets the rest of the plot in motion, and from there on we have a wild, fast-paced ride. The secrets from the past come to the fore, a newfound family is discovered, and those who have created this terrible set of affairs are going down.

I believe this is a standalone story, although a sequel could certainly be written. I do appreciate the tight focus on Qaanaaq--the author could have pulled back to show the wider drowned world, but the horrors of what humans have done to themselves are effectively communicated through implications and the wise use of fragments of backstory alone. This is definitely not a future anyone would wish, and I think books like these are essential in pointing out the hell we will unleash on ourselves if we don't get serious about climate change. ( )
1 vote redheadedfemme | Feb 9, 2019 |
I'd been wanting to read this book since I first heard of it (great cover, polar fiction, intriguing concept), but was forcing myself to wait for the paperback, as per usual. Except then I discovered that the hardback cover glowed in the dark, and then my friend challenged me to make some glowing earrings to coordinate with it, so to the library I went.

(The paperback actually came out while I was reading the library copy, and I ran out to buy it. Tragically, the paperback doesn't glow. But it's still gorgeous.)

I ATE THIS BOOK UP. Interesting world-building, some great, spiky characters, lots of polar-fiction flavor, despite the hotter, climate-changed world. I was on this ride 100% and careening through it as fast as I could to find out would happen until a certain plot point I am avoiding because spoilers. I mean, it's not as it didn't make sense, necessarily, as an in-world consequence. Maybe it just felt bigger to me than the book seemed to make it out to be -- I wanted more build-up to it, more impact after. (Not that there wasn't impact after.) I just felt kind of hollow after that moment -- not 100% on the ride anymore. Which is fine, it just knocked the book down from a 5-star for me, which it was well on its way toward being until then.
  greeniezona | Jan 24, 2019 |
Climate change has turned much of humanity into refugees. Qaanaaq is a floating city in the Artic, controlled by its shareholders and teeming with both registered and unregistered occupants. When the sole survivor of a genocide arrives with an orca and a captive polar bear, she provides an impetus for a war by a crime syndicate against a powerful shareholder. All the while, the strange disease the breaks is driving people to horrible deaths amidst images of lives they’ve never led, and the AIs running the city can’t do anything about it. Although almost everything goes wrong and key players don’t make it to the end of the story, it’s also about the kind of hope that can persist even in ashes, and the family connections that survive all kinds of wrongs. ( )
  rivkat | Jan 1, 2019 |
I wish I'd liked this more :/

The worldbuilding is amazing. The titular city is a wonder of creativity, both fantastical and terrifyingly realistic at the same time. In the beginning I loved the different POVs, characters from various rungs of the city's social ladder moving through a world wracked by inequality and a strange deadly disease no one seems to understand. It reminded me a little bit of Malka Older's [b:Infomocracy|26114433|Infomocracy (The Centenal Cycle, #1)|Malka Ann Older|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1444883445s/26114433.jpg|46061300] in that the worldbuilding and the POVs offer a wonderfully complex into a possible future.

But what kept me from really loving this book was its pacing.

The book went from a great exploration of its world to a sort of action-movie-esque sequence of events that all happened so quickly they had little significance. The ending left things open for a sequel so I wonder if the author was holding back for future volumes but as it stands, the strong first half is brought down by a much weaker last half.

Pacing is such a difficult thing in books like this, where worldbuilding is required to set the scene and the mood. It's a delicate balance that very few books get right. Despite the pacing issues, I still found this a fascinating story about a possible future and will look for more of Miller's work ( )
  ElleGato | Sep 27, 2018 |
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Book description
After the climate wars, a floating city was constructed in the Arctic Circle. Once a remarkable feat of mechanical and social engineering it is now rife with corruption and the population simmers with unrest.

Into this turmoil comes a strange new visitor - a woman accompanied by an orca and a chained polar bear. She disappears into the crowds looking for someone she lost thirty years ago, followed by whispers of a vanished people who could bond with animals. Her arrival draws together four people and sparks a chain of events that will change Blackfish City forever.
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After the climate wars, a floating city is constructed in the Arctic Circle, a remarkable feat of mechanical and social engineering, complete with geothermal heating and sustainable energy. Now crime and corruption have set in, the contradictions of incredible wealth alongside poverty are spawning unrest, and a new disease called "the breaks" is ravaging the population. When a strange new visitor arrives--a woman riding an orca, with a polar bear at her side--the city is entranced. She very subtly brings together four people--each living on the periphery--to stage unprecedented acts of resistance. By banding together to save their city before it crumbles under the weight of its own decay, they will learn shocking truths about themselves.… (more)

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