In a far future where technology is all but indistinguishable from magic, Tanyana is one of the elite.
She can control pions, the building blocks of matter, shaping them into new forms using ritual gestures and techniques. The rewards are great, and she is one of most highly regarded people in the city. But that was before the “accident”.
Stripped of her powers, bound inside a bizarre powersuit, she finds herself cast down to the very lowest level of society. Powerless, penniless and scarred, Tanyana must adjust to a new life collecting “debris”, the stuff left behind by pions. But as she tries to find who has done all of this to her, she also starts to realize that debris is more important than anyone could guess.
I bought this book on a whim! I liked the cover and the story seemed interesting, so I went for it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as good of an experience as I’d hoped– mainly because the central romantic relationship wasn’t actually as romantic as it was pretending to be.
There was a lot of potential for awesomeness. The protagonist, Tanyana, has a fall-from-glory life-changing event that forces her to reconsider the very fabric of the society she lives in. Her story is about finding yourself again after being forced to reconsider who you are as a person. I LOVE that story, and I especially love it in fantasy stories. It’s a nice break from the “one true hero” scenario.
One of the best things about Debris was Tanyana’s slow realization of the way her society sets non-magical people up for failure. Can’t see magic? You can’t use money, read street signs, find a job, go to school, or do anything to better your life. You’re stuck being a debris collector, and that’s it. I really like it when characters find out things aren’t always as good as they seem from the top, and I REALLY like it when they have to think things through themselves instead of relying on help from a wise native or something. Personal growth! Huzzah!
I also liked the world of Debris. It’s a fantasy world with scifi overtones– everything’s made through magic, but it takes on the appearance of high technology. And it’s set in the future! Possibly on another planet, which is super neat. Towards the end of the book we learn a little about HOW Tan’s people came to be (they conquered another civilization, basically) and those few hints made me want to read more.
However, despite the fact that I liked the worldbuilding, I didn’t much like the actual writing style. The pacing bugged me, and the way Tanyana reacted to certain things came off as very stupid. It’s partly because of Tanyana’s character voice, which is somewhat flat and emotionless. It sometimes felt like I was trying to read through a brick wall– hard to break through and feel any real human emotions. And it’s also partly because she deliberately ignores danger signs and then, when they blow up in her face, she stands around looking surprised.
My biggest problem the whole book was how she trusts people that are obviously untrustworthy and doesn’t figure out important plot points until, like, five pages after they happen. Take her love interest, Devich, who practically screamed “I will betray you” right from the get-go. They spend a good chunk of the book in a relationship together and I was SUPER CREEPED OUT the whole time.
He took advantage of her situation to create a sexual relationship and it is NOT romantic AT ALL. She’s isolated, de-powered, confused and scared. If Tan weren’t cut off from her former life, would they have gotten together? I think not. Also, he’s in a position of power over her– he made her suit; he’s in charge of maintaining it (even against her will); he can rat her out to their equivalent of the police any time he likes (and she has no recourse); he knows things about her/her suit that she needs to know and he isn’t telling her them.
I’m not entirely sure if the intention was for me (the reader) to like their relationship– and thus be even more shocked/upset at the last third of the book– or if I was supposed to be grossed out. To be fair, Tan latched onto Devich precisely because she felt so alone and scared, but she also ignored dozens of warning signs. And even after she started making new friends/boyfriends, she kept going out with Devich. She never thought anything was wrong with the way Devich was treating her UNTIL the Inevitable Betrayal. Just. Ugh.
I did have hopes that maybe, just maybe, Tanyana knew he was skeevy the whole time and was stringing HIM along like a double agent kinda thing. But alas, she did not and she was not. So frustrating!
Plot point-wise, it also got VERY confusing at the end with the introduction of gods(?) and secret parallel worlds and god-touched people and so on. Presumably it’s meant to set us up for the second book, but it felt rushed.
Good points: neat world, some good character arcs, poignant things about being handicapped. Bad points: unsavvy protagonist, uneven pacing, general blah feeling about a good chunk of the book. I focused so heavily on the creep factor of Devich and his relationship with Tan that it overshadowed a lot of the good points of the story, which is unfortunate.
Apparently the second book is better, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever end up reading it or not. This IS a debut book, however, and debut books are almost always a little rough. What do y’all think? Should I give the second book a go?
Read: September 24, 2014