Title:

Clade

Author:

Mark Budz

Category:

Science Fiction / Fantasy

Rating:

Date Reviewed:

November 4th, 2005

Clade has a terrifically original premise: in the near future, earth is an ecological wasteland. In order to control the remaining species and humans, the world has organized itself into mini-ecosystems, or clades, that are toxic to outsiders but provide a benign protected environment for the inhabitants. If you go outside of the zone tailored to your biology, you will suffer severe health effects, maybe even death. Thus, everyone has to stay put. You can get temporary immune sprays that will allow you to travel beyond your zone, but that is not the norm.

The protagonist of this story is Rigo, a young man who is playing by the rules to try and pull himself up from poverty and make something of his life. He works as at a factory for a megacorp that is designing warm blooded plants to be used in an outerspace environment. Rigo has troubles, his mom is sick, his brother is a shady biologist/pharmacist, and his girlfriend Dorit is trying to save the life of Ibrahim, a street kid who is not designed for the San Jose clade (which is where Rigo and Dorit live.) Where did Ibrahim come from? Why are the authorities trying so hard to recapture him? These activities in the first half of the novel allow Budz to give us a tour of this biologically enforced social order. It is a nice construct, and well done, especially since this is Budz's first novel.

Whipplebaum is the executive for the corporation that employs Rigo. He offers Rigo and his team to take a journey to a captured comet that has been placed in orbit around the earth. The corporation (Noogenic) wants to move the warm blooded planets up to the comet along with a team of colonists. Rigo will oversee the initial planting, and then return to earth. It is a big opportunity, and he can't afford to say no. But not everything goes as planned.

The second half of the novel really falters. What happens to Ibrahim? Never resolved. What about the colony on the comet? Another open issue. In fact, I am not sure Budz knew what he wanted to have happen. I think he wrote to a point, and then lacked any inspiration about "what happens next". The second half of the novel is aimless and unsuspenseful. I know that in really life many things don't work out neatly, all questions are not answered, but this is a novel, not real life, and it isn't fun for the reader to be taken partaway along a ride and then dropped off with out a good finish. I think there is an implicit contract between writer and reader that there will be climax and much will be explained, and at least somethings will be resolved. But the second half of Clade simply meanders along, uncertain about what story it is telling. Too bad. Budz has potential, he certainly has some good ideas. Maybe I will look at his next novel Crache, if the reviews sound good. But I recommend that you skip this one and try something else.