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Breakpoint: Nereis (The Plague Confederacy) Paperback – 13 Mar 2014

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Medical Sci Fi 8 Mar. 2014
By Talvi - Published on
Format: Paperback
Breakpoint: Nereis is a fairly hard sci fi story dealing with politics and medical drama. Although decently written, it is also extremely dense and, at the beginning, nearly impossible to keep characters and plot points distinguished. There are a wide array of characters, each with varying agendas, and yet unfortunately they can feel very cookie cutter due to having all the same level of intelligence. I think to make a book like this really work, characters really need to SHOW that they are from different colonies and mindsets, rather than the reader just being told. As well, the medical details were a bit mind numbing - there's definitely no CSI dumbing down of the terms but at the same time, it makes for an eye watering read that pulls the reader out of the story.

Plot: The human race has been devastated by a mysterious plague, the origins of which are unknown and only a few colonies survived with enough of their technology/knowledge intact to continue to jump space. The Waiora is a ship launched to track down the heart of the plague by landing on centuries-lost colonies and exhuming original plague victims. But what the crew finds is a colony planet at war with itself and they will have to walk a fine line between both warring sides, in a minefield of political machinations and betrayal. Including from their own ranks.

I don't shy away from big concepts or big words, but I have to admit I was stumbling with this book. E.g., characters calmly say lines like, "Nereian systemic amyloidosis with or without fibrosis. It results from deposition of foreign protein, incorporation of variant amino acids into native protein, and toxic metabolic effects" or "Central retroperitoneal hermatoma in a traumatic abdomen? Explore or not?....Yes, after gaining vascular control of the aorta.....Control where? Hemidiaphragm....Flank hematoma?" At times, I felt like I was sitting in on a medical seminal conference room and it wasn't a fun place to be.

Oddly enough, this reminded me of a lot of the 1970s Japanese manga sci fi with decent but fairly innocent and simple but advanced people dropped into more savage and backwards colonies and have to survive. However, in this case, the colonies, despite the deprivations from losing nearly all their tech and 90% of the population (and living in isolation for a century) seem to be just as advanced intellectually. They used big words/concepts too, despite being slaves. It took away a bit of the authenticity for me. I'm fairly well read and yet I was grabbing the online dictionary far too often.

I think the biggest problem I had, though, was the cover of this book. It is representative of the story but really brings down the feel so as to be more like a fanfiction. My respects to the artist (I certainly couldn't do better) but it isn't doing this book any service.

So, although not a terrible book, it wasn't an easy read, either. That makes it a solid 3 stars for me.

Reviewed from an ARC.
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