WETWARE

Craig Nova, Author WETWARECraig Nova

In this sincere but uneven SF novel from Nova (The Good Son) set in a gloomy and menacing near future, biotechnology engineer Hal Briggs designs human-like creatures to perform menial or dangerous jobs such as street-cleaning or mining. With demand high, the market is soon clamoring for advanced models with such skills as deceit, manipulation and marksmanship. But Briggs is this brave new world's Pygmalion. In creating perfect prototypes, he gives the woman, Kay, musical genius,, an appetite for love and an appreciation for beauty; on the man, Jack, he bestows qualities of strength and dependability. They could be his future lover and best friend. When the pair escape, Hal's job and life are suddenly both at risk. Jack and Kay stumble about the city like idiot savants, learning how to speak and dress—as well as play Chopin and program computers—while somberly enjoying their freedom. But what could have been a straightforward, fast-paced tale of pursuit and desire becomes hobbled by a sketchy subplot (concerning a woman embittered by unrequited love), the failure to explain basic realities of this futuristic world (why wearing clothing that's not up-to-date might be life threatening), and recurring doses of sentimentality registered in prose that tends toward the purple (Kay's tears were "the taste of childbirth, of passion, of everything that was so vital one cried in the face of it"). There are gripping moments, though, and Nova's premise—that beauty is a vital and life-giving force—stands out against the dark backdrop of an ominous, New York–like city. (Jan.)

Forecast:With impressive credentials—as a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as an Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters—plus blurbs from John Irving and Jonathan Yardley, Nova is well placed to appeal to the high lit crowd. SF regulars, however, may feel they've seen it all before.

Reviewed on: 01/21/2002
Release date: 01/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-1-4000-3117-7
Open Ebook - 284 pages - 978-0-307-43015-1
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