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Posted by Matt | July 19th, 2010

Chill cover image

Elizabeth Bear, Chill. Spectra, 2010 (US): mass market paperback.

My review of Elizabeth Bear’s Chill, the second volume of her Jacob’s Ladder trilogy, is now online at Strange Horizons. Reviewing the middle volume of a trilogy is an odd and discomfiting business. A review of a complete work allows for something approaching definitiveness–not in capturing an author’s intentions, but in giving one’s own reading of a text. When reviewing the second book of a trilogy, however, that reading becomes highly provisional. I wondered in this review, as an example, at two characters using the same metaphor for the same story element within a few pages of each other. Was this just a slip, a metaphor that had been in the author’s mind and so was used twice inadvertently? Or was it a way of signaling something within the story? I’ve seen similar repetitions used in science fiction to indicate that characters were clones of each other, to give one possibility–in this case, both characters are bonded to symbiont nanocomputers, and so it might also be a way of indicating the manner in which such symbionts shape and constrain thoughts; maybe the shared thoughts are a sign of decreasing bandwidth. Or more prosaically, maybe both characters simply heard another person use the metaphor and it stuck with both of them. There’s no way of knowing at this point. To call it out critically is thus to say, and to say only, that I can’t see a possibility latent in the text that makes the awkwardness of the repetition necessary.

But this assumes I haven’t missed a possibility. And that, of course, is a possibility.

Selected past reviews at other venues: