Debris – Jo Anderton

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. 

The novel begins by showing Tanyana at her greatest; co-ordinating her team and manipulating pions in the construction of a gigantic structure. It’s an intricate beginning to a novel, the scene in which her entire life is changed in just one moment, by mysterious pions that, apparently, no-one else can see. From the heights of her success, she falls and is stripped of her ability to see these tiny particles which have shaped her existence so far. In some respects, she finds herself blind and forced into a new role – that of debris collector.

While initially the reader isn’t given a lot of extra information, it doesn’t take too long to start orienting yourself in the world that Anderton has created. Nor does it take much to see just how much Tanyana has lost. While I felt for her, there was a chunk of me that was pleased the author made her pay for her arrogance, made her suffer for her mistakes – it was only once she had fully realized that she couldn’t have anything of her old life, once she’d accepted that she was a different person, that she become more likable.

I thought the setting was really well developed, as were the people – you have two distinct groups in those who can see pions, and those who cannot. While several characters try to cross the lines, the cultures deeply grounded beliefs about the way of the world prevent it from really working. These beliefs come into question nearer the end when the debris is acting strangely and Tanyana finally comes to realize what is going on around her.

The pacing is a little slower than I might have liked, but the setting and story were engaging enough to keep me reading. Tanyana searches for answers, but many of these attempts are thwarted. Closer to the end some of the mysteries in the story are revealed, though by the climax there is still a lot left hanging for the next book. I’ll definitely be checking it out.

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