Hello people! I can’t believe that the end of the year is so fastly approaching. Time really flew by! But at least I can write some more reviews before we are done with 2021 so… let’s get to them!
Title: The Trellis
Author: Jools Cantor
Publication Date: December 2020
The world turns, the ice caps melt, and the Dust Belt creeps eastward. Cyberpunks might do their thing in Goa or Melbourne or Daegu, but in Chicago, Debbie Peck is a conflict mediator fighting for relevance and her next paycheck. So when her headhunter offers her an interview at the Jefferson Trellis, one of the last bastions of American prosperity, she jumps at the opportunity. She lands right in a dead man’s shoes.
As Debbie navigates her new position and Six Counties Homicide Detective Melody Jackson investigates the murders occurring around the Trellis, they each untwine the tendrils of a secret creeping through its corner offices. Like the botanical gardens at the Trellis’s base, their worlds weave between the lush, the stark, the delicate, and the deadly.
Set in the near future and dancing between mystery, sci-fi, and literary fiction, THE TRELLIS deftly layers a few years of continued decline to the American condition. Whether it’s the drone swarms or deepfakes, the halves-of-one-tenth-of-one-percent or the have-naughts, the technology has predictably improved and the people predictably haven’t. Debbie’s world is both familiar and fantastic, both funny and frightening, but to call it a dystopia would damn our own to the same definition.
This was quite a surprise. To be honest, when I sampled it I was intrigued by the story, this much is true, but I was interested mostly because it seemed like a good thriller. Sure, reading just the 10% won’t give you much, at least most of the time, but I was intrigued and that was good.
And once I started it for real I found so much more in there. Sure, we have the thriller part, and the investigation has a big role in the story, but it is not all. But I’ll try and go on order.
The story follows our two MCs, the detective who is trying to solve two murders, Melody, and a young mediator, Debbie. Melody is the character that we get to know the less. She is more enclosed into her role, and even if we get to know a bit of her, she is the one less developed of the “duo”. But she was my favorite all the same, and I think that this is in part due to her relationship with Matte.
Matte is an Organon, a really powerful and really really smart computer, who works for the police. And their relationship is somewhat unique, even for their world.
Debbie is the one more developed, we learn to know her, her desires, her needs, her strongest suits, and her weakest. She is the one who takes the story forward for the most part, and she is the one that lets us learn a lot about the world imagined by the author.
And the worldbuilding is brilliant. We are in a near future. We are not far off in the future, we are somewhat a couple of generations forward, and there is a point in which Debbie is talking about this world that is just so so relatable! I would not quote it literally, but basically, she says that when her grandparents, who have seen the man on the moon, and all the new things technology and science could accomplish, thought about the future, they will think about flying machines, and androids and many marvelous things. But the future is not so full of wonders as they were hoping.
Sure, technology has reached some amazing results, they have super-smart computers and they have drones and incredible things, but… but not as much or as wondrous as the old generations imagined. And… this is us, too!
But do not be fooled by my words. This world is rich in things that are so futuristic and unique, and that are amazing in their own right. Especially the computers. They are not sentient. At least, not as we intend the term, they are not really alive. They are computers. Smart. Powerful. Amazing. But they have no feelings. No wants. And no needs.
And here we have another brilliant thing. Sure, the world is not as it was before, and there are climatic changes and other bad things, but the critical point in there is not because there is no food, or because the world is no more hospitable or habitable by humans (sure, there are people who have plenty to eat, and people with hungry bellies. Poverty is still a thing. As there are all the bad things that plague our world) or whatever. The main problem in this world is that people are slowly becoming useless. They don’t know anymore what to do with themselves. Jobs are few and far between because the Organons and the computers can do the work better than humans. And this is the real problem in this world. And it was fascinating. To me, it was almost mind-blowing.
Because on one hand, it was the first time that I seriously considered this problem. And on the other hand, it is such a relatable and plausible problem. I just went wow!
And hand in hand with that, there is the fact that even if people are not happy about it. And some have started rebelling because they hate computers and want a world without them, and we have some more sociological problems and factions in there, that help make this book more real and deeper. And that will join in the investigation part of the plot, but the thing that gave me pause here (in a good way) is that, sure there are factions that hate computers, and the job problem is The Problem because it is not minor and it has so many consequences that are really frightening and troubling and alarming, but they all are blaming the computers. And we get told time and again that the computers are not alive. You can take any meaning and nuance of the word, and still, they would result not alive.
So, as always, humans are the only culprit for their destruction. And it is brutal. And it is disheartening. But it is also so true.
And I was so deeply involved in these reflections that, when I get to the end of the book when we finally can discover what was happening, it took me by surprise. I mean, it was all there, but when I finally got to see it completely developed I just had to pause and take stock, because my mind was going “how is this possible? How has this happened?”, it was really like if it was something suddenly here that took me by surprise, but it was not true. The plot is well developed, and we get to learn a lot about this world (and our world, too) and we have all the clues we need. But still, I was completely surprised by it.
And this is something valuable!
And we have also smooth writing and a well-balanced rhythm to the story. I was hooked up from the start to the end, and I had a great time with this book. It was compelling and thoughts provoking. And now I am here to tell you all to just go and try this book!!!
And that’s all for today! Have you read this book? Or something else by this author?? Let me know!
6 thoughts on “SPSFC Review: The Trellis or a sci-fi thriller with some intriguing ideas!”
Awesome review, I am intrigued to say the least! I would honestly pass this by because of the cover, but the story sounds really well done😁
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Thank you!! And I agree about the cover, I wasn’t in love with it, to put it kindly, but all the rest is reallu well done!
Very, very intriguing indeed! I agree with Tammy that the cover does not give any SF vibes, so it’s good to have a fellow blogger pointing at books we might have otherwise missed 😉
Thanks for sharing!
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Thank you! And yes, the cover is not the best thing in the book, to pit it, again, kindly, but lucky for us the inside of it is pretty good!!
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