Book Review – The Red

Book Review (spoilers)

The Red

By Linda Nagata

Just finished reading The Red. I got an actual paperback for a change. I was reading through some award nominees and also JohnnScalzi’s blog. I came across a Big Idea on the blog for the sequel to The Red. And I also saw it was nominated for the Nebula. I figure if it shows up enough in my radar, I might as well give it a shot.

Two things I want to say from the start; 1) the cynical near-future extrapolations kept me turning pages, and 2) the descriptions of combat , especially in the first part of the book, kept me on the edge of my seat. 

I have a pretty hard fast rule. If a book isn’t worth my time, I’ll put it down. I didn’t put it down, so there’s your bottom line. The AI in the story was very well invented and atypical within the genre. It was imaginative and novel. The main character was also atypical, emotionally  and politically not what I expected.

That said, I felt that several opportunities were left unexplored. A lot of time was spent describing how the main character became a cyborg super soldier, but the cyborg parts were really just treated as good prosthetics. Interesting, but basically not necessary to the plot. If you’re going to give an elite soldier Nobel prize winning cyborg parts then you should make them awesome, and pivotal to the story.

Similarly, the linked soldier squad didn’t seem particularly linked. There was some tech that could interpret subvocalization and send messages, but that wasn’t developed to show that they were different from other soldiers linked by voice. The Forever Peace did it better. 

The tech that controlled their emotions, a skullcap that stimulates brain implants, was cool, too. It explained how soldiers could be cool under pressure or functional, despite personal loss. It is also integral to how the  AI of the story interacts with people. But when we read that our heroes are “emo junkies” I kind of wanted to see something more done with that. 

Lastly, it was about 100 pages too long. The story took a tangent to capture a secondary bad guy. It felt complete at that point, except it was not the real bad guy. Then they went after the real one. The last hundred pages felt like the previous hundred, with different settings and tech, admittedly, but plot wise the same. 

Maybe the story tried to introduce too much tech without enough pages to explore. Bottom line, I enjoyed reading The Red. But I found myself wanting a little more. 

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