Review: The Birthday Problem by Caren Gussoff

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Publisher: Pink Narc. Press
Publishing Date: July 2014
ISBN: 9781939056061
Genre: SciFi
Rating: 3.2/5

Publisher Description: In the year 2060, the next plague has arrived. MaGo bots, the nanotechnology used for everything from fighting the common cold to radical life extension, have begun to malfunction, latching onto the brain’s acetylcholine receptors to cause a permanent state of delirium. The effects are devastating. The Birthday Problem follows four Seattle survivors and how their lives irrevocably intersect.

Review: Really good cover art. Just wow.

Ah, dystopia where is thy sting? This was a maudlin rush through a fragment in time where civilization is in ruins after medical nanobots turn people into schizophrenic wanderers. There are multiple story-lines within the bounds of the novel, yet there really is no definitive plot. Which, I guess, is the point.

This is set in Seattle and surrounding areas where I grew up. The author does not rely on developing the surrounding scenes, as I suppose everyone must know what those areas look like. The real focus is creating the instances that led up to a particular characters’ situation and the inner processes that develop from those experiences. A myriad of lives conjoin, separate and intersect in clever reveals as the novel moves back and forth through time. The author has to make the characters likeable or vulnerable in order to generate a sympathetic appeal, otherwise the individual story-lines become fragmented vignettes within a downward spiraling event. Hope is fleeting where Rumi discovers what might be a cure. Mostly, people are either affected or not, and the ones that aren’t are able to move on to lives that are perhaps far more limiting than previously accustomed.

Personally I wasn’t really drawn to any of the characters. Chaaya is mostly concerned with herself. Greystone doesn’t generate an interest simply because he is bereft of personality. Didi is really kind of gross with 30+ cats running around her house. Rumi’s character should have been expanded upon. You kind of wander within the mind of Sasha, so that’s a bust. Book was the only character that drew you in to his mental processes and their outward manifestations.

There are no Mule Deer in coastal WA, until you get to the Rockies. All the deer depicted should have been coastal Black Tail deer. The whole novel might have been better served with a culminating event to drive the movement in new directions. I liked that it took place in Seattle, as no better shjthole is deserving, and Elma, Ocean Shores, Aberdeen.. all the places that I have formative despairing memories of. Still the writer has a mean talent and creative aplomb. For that she gets another star.

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