Saturday, 22 March 2014

Peacemaker by Marianne de Pierres

Peacemaker by Marianne de Pierres is the Australian author's latest science fiction / science fantasy novel. It's due out at the end of April, but if it sounds familiar, that might be because the author released a comic by the same name (and following the same story) in 2011. I haven't (yet) read the comic, other than the free sample consisting of only a few pages, and you definitely don't need to before picking up the novel. Closer to the release date, I will be running an interview with Marianne, so keep an eye out for that.
When an imaginary animal from her troubled teenage years reappears, Virgin takes it to mean one of two things: a breakdown (hers!) or a warning. Dead bodies start piling up around her, so she decides on the latter. Something terrible is about to happen in the park and Virgin and her new partner, U.S. Marshall Nate Sixkiller, are standing in its path...

Virgin Jackson is the senior ranger in Birrimun Park - the world's last natural landscape, overshadowed though it is by a sprawling coastal megacity. She maintains public safety and order in the park, but her bosses have brought out a hotshot cowboy to help her catch some drug runners who are affecting tourism. She senses the company is holding something back from her, and she's not keen on working with an outsider like Nate Sixkiller.
I was just staring at the cover while contemplating what to write, and wow the more you look, the more you see extra details in the image. There's the obvious bird, which I noticed right away, but there's also a person in her shirt, two people, even. I am liking this cover more and more.

Anyway, the actual book. I enjoyed it quite a bit. It had me turning the pages all the way through without wanting to put it down (except for when I had to). Virgin is a compelling character, despite making some poor decisions throughout the book. She spends most of the book under the weather in one way or another — attempts on her life, sleep deprivation, miscellaneous wounds — and has plenty of reason to be distrustful of almost everyone who tries to help her, so there are reasonable reasons for what I saw as lapses of judgement.

The setting is a future Perth with hover cars, very segregated neighbourhoods and more guns than one would expect to see in Australia. Virgin works as a ranger in a large park which is mostly a natural reserve but with a Western (as in cowboys) theme and some imported cacti. All in the name of tourism more than preservation. I've never been to Perth, but I can see how the seeds for this future world exist in the current world. It's not the future I would imagine, but unfortunately, globalisation and the spread of US culture does not make it implausible. (Although I don't get why Westerns are still a thing. Mind you, thinking about it, I suppose it's no weirder than Victoriana.) There were a lot of guns relative to present times, though, which was a bit, well, un-Australian. Mind you, it did fit with the Western theme of Virgin's park and Nate Sixkiller.

Speaking of Sixkiller, I felt fairly meh towards him. Cowboys just don't do it for me. That said, I liked how he and Virgin saved each other at various times and how de Pierres did not take the obvious plot-route with him. I liked Heart, Virgin's sort-of-boyfriend much more, even though I was suspicious of him for most of the book. I quite liked the fact that Sixkiller wasn't thrown with Virgin as a default love interest, since the "new person shows up and becomes love interest" trope is really very common in every piece of fiction in all forms of media. It's nice to see something different.

Although Peacemaker is set in the future it's not pure science fiction (or, by any stretch of the imagination, hard science fiction). As well as future tech, there's a good dose of mythology in the brought to life sense. It was pivotal to the book in general, but one aspect — trying to track down the origin of an artefact — felt a bit McGuffin-y to me, existing mainly to move the characters around (to places where important things happened). That's not a strong complaint though.

When I finished, I was left wanting to know if we would get more books (stand-by for my upcoming interview) and wanting to know more about some aspects of the world. Particularly the aspects which are most likely to be covered in any sequels, should they exist, so de Pierres has done her job well.

Peacemaker was an enjoyable read and I highly recommend it to fans of near-future SF, urban fantasy set in the future and future-Westerns. I'll definitely be picking up any sequels that happen, and I plan to read the comic book when I get around to it.

4 / 5 stars

First published: April 2014, Angry Robot
Series: I hope so...
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge, Australian Science Fiction Reading Challenge

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