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The Bohr Maker [Paperback]

Linda Nagata
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Paperback, April 1995 --  

Book Description

April 1995
It is the most powerful technology known to humanity, microscopically small, allowing its user to control and change other's moods and emotions, and even to reprogram his or her own genetic structure. Its potential as the ultimate weapon or an instrument of peace has led to its ban by the Commonwealth.

Someone has stolen this outlaw technology, the Bohr Maker, from the secret files of the Commonwealth Police, at the command of a man with a genetic time bomb coded into his DNA. Nikko Jiang-Tibayan has only weeks to live, and he will do anything to stay only weeks to live, and he will do anything to stay alive, even if it means the end of life as we know it.

But then the Bohr Maker falls into the hands of a beautiful young woman in the poverty-stricken slums of Sunda. Its technology will make her both fugitive and messiah. The object of frantic searches by a walking dead man and a high-tech police force, the Maker holds the key to the total destruction of humanity -- or its miraculous rebirth....

Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Spectra (April 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553569252
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553569254
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 10.4 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,123,692 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Linda Nagata grew up in a rented beach house on the north shore of Oahu. She graduated from the University of Hawaii with a degree in zoology and worked for a time at Haleakala National Park on the island of Maui. She has been a writer, a mom, a programmer of database-driven websites, and lately a publisher and book designer. She is the author of eight novels including The Bohr Maker, winner of the Locus Award for best first novel, and the novella "Goddesses," the first online publication to receive a Nebula award. She lives with her husband in their long-time home on the island of Maui. Find Linda on the web at

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars More magic than sci-fi 25 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
After reading and enjoying 'Red: First Light' I thought I'd come back and try some of Nagata's earlier work. I was sorely disappointed.

Nano-tech and the conflict arrising from it's use and development is potentially a fertile ground for sci-fi but the author employs it in an arbitrary and shalloow fashion, making it do whatever she wants for the story whilst leaving everything else unexplored. The most glaring example of this is that characters are seemingly able to fully copy their personalities around at will and even house other personalities within their brain. This is utilised wherever required in the plot without and consideration for the wider implications of such a technology. Similar glaring holes in the litter the book.

Combined with the largely unlikeable and uninteresting characters this is one of those rare books that I didn't even finish.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  31 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Amazing. 29 Mar 2004
By MarvinT - Published on
My favorite authors include Larry Niven, Neal Stephenson, and Linda Nagata. Actually, the last few books by Neal (and I have autographed copies) have been a distinct disappointments.
But in all the mass-market books that I have been able to locate, Linda Nagata has consistently written excellent work. This is the second in the Nanotech series (w/Tech Heaven, Deception Well, and Vast), and perhaps the best.
The thrust of the book centers on the attempt to access the Bohr Maker, a "maker" that can alter the (human) host's physiology at a cellular level, and more. The technological evolution is handled very well, and some ramifications of such a technology are presented as facets of the narrative. The social situation she presents is not as well framed, but that deficiency does little to reduce the joy in reading this book.
The last 3 books of this series would certainly make it on my list of top 50, proably top 25 books.
Find it, buy it and read it.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative, sophisticated speculation + charming heroine 7 Jan 2001
By Amazon Customer - Published on
It's too bad this novel is currently out of print, since it packages intricate and imaginative speculation about nanotechnology and its impacts on humanity with lively action, exotic local color, a social conscience *and* a charming heroine with an unbeatable combination of vulnerability and clout. Phousita is an impoverished and uneducated but gentle, clever and (by the way) "beautifully proportioned" ex-prostitute who stands less than four feet tall. Accidentally infected with the "Bohr maker," a new and awesomely powerful nanotechnological device, she acquires magical, superhuman powers of life and death. Her adventures take her from the slums of an unnamed city (apparently in Java or Malaya) to artificial habitats in outer space and back again, more or less. Along the way Nagata details a vivid series of technological wonders, from trees (and humans) genetically engineered to flourish in the near-vacuum of space, to organic self-sustaining space habitats that disperse through spores (call them spaceships). Nor does she neglect the political dynamics and cultural shifts that result from such technological developments. Significant weaknesses include rather flat rendering of most characters and occasional lags in the plot's pacing. Nagata's next two books (Tech Heaven and Deception Well) do not live up to the promise of this one, in my view, but I look forward to checking out Vast and Limit of Vision.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Bore Maker: Some interesting but underdeveloped ideas in an otherwise dull novel 18 Dec 2013
By Magnitude - Published on
Nagata's novel builds the transhuman setting that, through repetition and elaboration over nearly 20 years, has by now become comfortably recognizable in its broad strokes. The novel's world exists somewhere along the continuum toward the end result in H.G. Wells's "The Time Machine," here with an effete and technologically advanced society high up in Earth orbit, while the downtrodden live below on nasty old Earth and, indeed, even eat the molecular decay from the bodies of the higher ups that wash up in the rivers.

We meet a variety of characters from these worlds: Nikko and his brother Sandor from higher up, as well as Kristin, a police chief; Phousita and Arif from down below. The latter, it should be pointed out, are escaped child prostitutes, who apparently were designed as sex toys for the ultra rich advanced types. Phousita inherits a miracle technology, the Bohr Maker, and sets off a chain of non-events that swirl into a sometimes bewildering and ultimately unsatisfying molecular stew. Nagata does not have seem to have the gift of developing multiple characters along one plot line, and her focus, and ours, becomes diffracted as a result.

Nagata's prose style is vague on the more interesting points that would drive the plot and reveal the characters' motivations, and she's overly exacting on some of the more banal points of the narrative. While there is hardly any exposition of how this world came to be, or how this rich-poor dichotomy continues to function economically, there was a tedious 2-page description of the characters trying to figure out how to dock their ships. At times, some of the technology is breathtaking (molecular redesign, ghosts in atriums, an orbital habitat that is alive), but then there are the robot-like police dogs that are supposed to be threatening but aren't, and a search in a corporate office. (Yes, people still work in offices in this future, perhaps the most chilling hallmark of any future dystopia.)

Where all of this was driving was lost in the interwoven interplay between the characters. Phousita is likeable, but fundamentally passive as a possible heroine, and as a result, we lose sight of her toward the end, as the plot shifts back to Nikko, Kristin, and threats of explosions. There are random and half-baked themes about technology appearing to be magical, and an Eden somewhere, but these potentially deep ideas are swallowed in this amorphous blob of a novel that, like Summer House, swallows the searcher of truth.

Why the Bohr Maker was such a threat, why Nikko wanted to destroy this civilization, or why Leander Bohr wanted his maker back are not well explained, or better yet, shown. In the standard dystopian arc, Phousita or Arif would have been more actively trying to destroy this civilization, or build a new one--perhaps with a deeper commitment from Sandor (not Nikko, who seems self-absorbed with some sort of personal vendetta). If a society has given you everything, including the possibility for immortality, why would you want to destroy it? In the end, Nagata's novel left me wondering what I just read, and why any of it matters.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very thought provoking 19 Aug 2009
By Amazon Customer - Published on
I really enjoyed this story -

Sci-Fi is at its best to me when it combines "real" people, a good story and lots of "it might happen sooner than you think" technologys/situations

I found the characters both otherworldy and understandable - I didnt understand thier motivation at all at the beginning, but by the end I had got "into thier heads" - I have thought about them a bit afterwards and wonder if they would seem more natural to a japanese reader, coming from a culture which emphasises self control and etiquette.

The story itself was a great yarn, but filled with many enriching observations/details - I have not felt this many times, but on closing the book I thought "This would make a great movie"

The ideas are also really intriguing - essentially a projection of how genetic engineering will manifest itselves in future generations. Since reading it (combined with a nearer-term vision presented in the movie "Gattaca") I find the subject fascinating - both in a happy "futuristic" way, but also with some sadness for my children that will have to navigate through a more complex world as these technologies increasingly influence our lives.

I dont think this book would be to everyones taste, but I loved it!!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fugitives and Runaway Tech 19 Aug 2012
By Randy Stafford - Published on
It's not like I missed the debut of novelist Linda Nagata. I bought the original paperback of this edition when it came out, but it sat on my shelf unread until I read her recent young adult novel Skye Object 3270a set much further in the universe of this novel.

I was not disappointed by this novel nor did I find it dated.

My inner bureaucrat finds a fascination with stories built around the idea of controlling - but not totally suppressing - a powerful and disruptive technology. Here it's nanotechnology, dubbed "makers" in this novel.

A Commonwealth, to which most of the humans of Earth and orbital habitats in the solar system belong, mandates that nanotechnology only be used in limited ways. Specifically, radical alterations to the human genome, beyond curing degenerative disorders - which include aging - and cosmetic changes to skin and hair color, are not allowed. Embodying a major exception to this is one of the novel's central characters: Nikko Jiang-Tibayan. With his ceramic skin and ability to exist in the vacuum of space, Nikko is actually a science project authorized by the Commonwealth Police, a science project with a legally mandated end coming soon. Nikko begs his old lover, Kirstin Adair, who just happens to be the Chief of Commonwealth Police, for an extension of his life. Adair is one of the best things about the novel. She's an unpleasant and fanatical adherent to the modern superstition of nature worship, a devoted protector of the Mother Goddess Gaia. Still, she's not entirely unsympathetic. The makers do promise tremendous upheaval. That was realized by another old lover of hers, Leander Bohr, when he developed - but refused to release to other people - the most sophisticated and illegal maker of all, the titular Bohr Maker.

To extend his life, Nikko tries to get the sequestered Bohr Maker and sets in motion a series of events that will threaten his younger brother; possibly estrange him even more from his father Fox who designed him and the sophisticated orbital habitat they live in, a man whose experiments in maker development push the very limits of legality; entangle two ex-prostitutes, Phousita - a voluptuous and perfectly proportioned four-foot-tall woman - and Arif - possessor of a glow-in-the-dark clown face of long nose and bulging cheeks, in a cascade series of events that threaten the political and social order of the Commonwealth.

Phousita and Arif exist in a zone of Earth where the Commonwealth does not have complete control. The local authorities are given a certain amount of leeway, including allowance to dabble in the sort of illegal makers that created the alterations that led to Phousita and Alif. The fast moving plot, which starts out with Phousita being the accidental repository of the Bohr Maker, involves some interesting technological ideas one of which I think is rather novel.

Nikko and Adair and some other characters move about in electronic data streams as "ghosts" - recordings of personality and memory. They move in and out of bodies manufactured for them with only one legally allowed to be active at any one time. That was not even a novel idea in 1995's science fiction. What is more novel is that these ghosts run as programs in "atriums", seemingly parts of an individual's brain altered by makers. The possibility of multiple ghosts being active at once and inhabiting the bodies of others for purposes of sex, hiding, and espionage is exploited.

There are plenty of science fiction stories that have used the idea of nanotechnology. Indeed, it's part of the standard genre tool kit these days. While not as rigorous in analyzing the limits and possibilities of nanotech and how it might be used and controlled as Wil McCarthy's Bloom, it is closer in feel to that than other stories where nanotech is a magical fairy dust.

In short, this novel has a fast-paced story with Phousita and Nikko and Kirstin as interesting characters, a plausible notion of how and why nanotechnology would be controlled, and a conflict with the nature of the human ecosystem at stake. A very strong novel and a fine introduction to the Nanotech Succession.
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