Jo Anderton

The Veiled Worlds, book 2

Angry Robot (2012)

ISBN: 978-0-85766-156-2

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

Lorraine Cormack is a judge for the Aurealis Awards. This review is the personal opinion of the writer, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any judging panel, the judging coordinator or the Aurealis Awards management team.

Suited is the second in a trilogy, the sequel to last year’s Debris. It continues a strong story and good character development, as well as significantly expanding our understanding of the world in which it is set. It’s a strong novel; like its predecessor, it is something of a cross-genre novel, although Suited skews more towards science fiction than the first novel did. Unsurprisingly, it has most to offer people who have read the first novel, but many readers new to the series will also enjoy Suited.

In Debris, Tanyana fell from her privileged position as a talented and strong pion builder. Well respected and financially well rewarded, she had a comfortable life with access to the higher echelons of society in Movoc. When a dreadful accident robs her of all this, she discovers undercurrents to her society she had previously been unaware of. Specifically, she discovers that not everyone can see pions, the elements of matter that everyone manipulates without a second thought every day. Except not everyone can; some people can’t see pions and thus can’t use them; they can see only the waste they leave behind. And although these people are vital – if debris collectors don’t do their job, the unseen debris builds up and causes all kinds of malfunctions – they are nevertheless despised. Scorned by society, paid barely enough to live on, treated as little more than slave labour.

And now Tanyana is one of them.

Suited continues the story of her developing relationship with her new collecting team; the mystery of why Tanyana was deliberately sabotaged; and further unravels the mystery that lies at the heart of Movoc and the inhabitants’ way of life. Tanyana is indeed correct when she asserts her accident was no accident; but the conspiracy behind it is deeper and more frightening than she could ever have imagined. It encompasses not only her life, but the history of her entire world – and perhaps its future. In addition, the novel gives us considerably more background about the wider world and how pions and debris interact – and how those who manipulate pions and debris are supposed to interact.

As Anderton expanded on her world, I felt I was seeing a fairly strong Russian influence. The city Movoc bears only a passing resemblance to Moscow in terms of buildings and people. However, the weather, the bordering nations, and the names of the people are all reminiscent of Russia. I assume that such pervasive – albeit subtle – influences are deliberate, and may become of relevance in the third novel. Despite these influences, Anderton has developed an original, realistic and compelling world. In Suited she explains how pions work in far more detail than in Debris, and it is a well worked out system that sounds credible. As with the first novel, this could be read as a fantasy rather than a science fiction novel, but the language and concepts used to explain pions tends to give a more scientific gloss to it.

There is a strong and intriguing plot underpinning this trilogy, and most readers are going to want to find out what happens. This volume ends on more of a cliffhanger than the previous one, possibly because Tanyana is now in so deep that there was really nowhere for Anderton to pause that wasn’t going to create a cliffhanger. Most readers aren’t going to be bothered by this. It is a trilogy after all; and more importantly, readers are likely to be so engaged with Tanyana and her story that they’ll want to read the next volume cliffhanger or not.

The characterisation in this novel is interesting, as Anderton needs to not only deepen our knowledge of Tanyana and those around her, but also show us personality changes wrought by her experiences and her suit. It’s quite tricky, asking your readers to get to know and empathise with someone, while at the same time having them behave uncharacteristically at some moments. Anderton manages this remarkably well and it adds a layer of complexity to the novel. Although Tanyana is the focus, in this novel readers are also offered the opportunity to get to know other characters better. Characterisation is strong overall, with characters coming to life and behaving convincingly.

Suited is a very good book. It packs in a lot of plot, but doesn’t leave the reader behind. There are well written action scenes as well as subtly inserted exposition, and although the reader may sometimes be a step or two ahead of Tanyana, there is still an interesting element of mystery to the plot. Characterisation is strong and generally involving. The major shortcoming of the novel is that it may be a little difficult to follow if you haven’t read the first novel; I’d recommend readers start with Debris if possible.