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Alien Clay by Adrian Tchaikovsky
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Alien Clay (edition 2024)

by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Author)

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673401,380 (3.8)1
The planet of Kiln is where the tyrannical Mandate keeps its prison colony, and for inmates the journey there is always a one-way trip. One such prisoner is Professor Arton Daghdev, xeno-ecologist and political dissident. Soon after arrival he discovers that Kiln has a secret. Humanity is not the first intelligent life to set foot there. In the midst a ravenous, chaotic ecosystem are the ruins of a civilization, but who were the vanished builders and where did they go? If he can survive both the harsh rule of the camp commandant and the alien horrors of the world around him, then Arton has a chance at making a discovery that might just transform not only Kiln but distant Earth as well.… (more)
Member:xanomon
Title:Alien Clay
Authors:Adrian Tchaikovsky (Author)
Info:Orbit (2024), 383 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

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Alien Clay by Adrian Tchaikovsky

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Lots of body horror! Rebels against an authoritarian human government are exiled to an alien world where they will die as manual labor supporting scientific investigations into the incredibly complex biology of that world. But the alien biome wants to colonize its human invaders as much as the humans in charge want to dissect and control the biome. Can people who’ve never succeeded at rebellion—because they were betrayed or afraid of being betrayed or just too isolated among compliance—find a way through? Can you truly understand anything of which you are not a part? I sort of wonder if the current vogue for fungi in sf influenced this book as well. ( )
  rivkat | Jun 24, 2024 |
A book club pick :)

All right, this was very interesting. It’s probably one of the more interesting “Tchaikovskys” I’ve read so far. I liked it a lot, with some reservations that I have so far had trouble articulating. Writing things down usually helps, so here we go.

The totalitarian state of this universe has labour camps on planets it wants to explore. Convicts are shipped there, as cheaply as possible. (Me: labour camps on Earth are cheaper.) The author obviously knows about sharashkas of the Soviet Gulag – and the main character is to help the research into the alien artefacts of Kiln. (The research findings need to confirm to the state doctrine, of course.) The artefacts are creepy and fascinating and seem to have been made by a vanished civilization. I like this kind of mystery.

The labour camp dynamics and horrors were written well, yet there was a sarcastic detachment that bothered me. It is a legitimate narrative choice; it has been done before. It is just that in this particular case I had trouble feeling, experiencing, diving in. Things were happening, I wanted to know what would happen next, so on I read, that’s it. It also made the characters more puppet-like, and the beginning of the book had led to me to expect a more character-driven story…

I really liked the subversive nods to the French Revolution, as parts 1, 2, and 3 are Liberté-Égalité-Fraternité. As you read, it becomes more and more subversive and twisted. I loved that!

The world of Kiln is fascinating and amazing, truly alien, with frighteningly different (to conservative humans, that is) genetics and ecology. The references to Hieronymus Bosch are the loveliest things. I didn’t know I wanted a Boschian alien world in my books, but suddenly, there is was, and I happily ate it all up. The true nature of Kiln wasn’t that much of surprise, but Tchaikovsky is doing ambitious, ambiguous stuff here, so kudos to him. Is our narrator reliable, by the way? Ha! But I am always eager to see another take on the “there are many ways of being human (post-human?)” theme. (Also me, screaming: doesn’t anyone in this labour camp have an immune system??? Me, having caught my breath: ok, so Kiln stuff is good it adaptation, so maybe it fools the human immune system. But do mention it specifically, please?) The ending is not unexpected. Is it satisfying or horrific? It depends.

Quotes that I liked:
“Just because the tyrant dresses like a clown doesn’t mean he’s funny.”

“The greatest privilege of power is being able to overlook the fact that you’re even wielding it.”
( )
  Alexandra_book_life | May 19, 2024 |
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The planet of Kiln is where the tyrannical Mandate keeps its prison colony, and for inmates the journey there is always a one-way trip. One such prisoner is Professor Arton Daghdev, xeno-ecologist and political dissident. Soon after arrival he discovers that Kiln has a secret. Humanity is not the first intelligent life to set foot there. In the midst a ravenous, chaotic ecosystem are the ruins of a civilization, but who were the vanished builders and where did they go? If he can survive both the harsh rule of the camp commandant and the alien horrors of the world around him, then Arton has a chance at making a discovery that might just transform not only Kiln but distant Earth as well.

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