Review of '/ (Slant)'

/ (Slant) by Greg Bear

slant.jpg In the mid 21st century there are sentient computers with personalities and toilets that diagnose your health every time you use them. Many people have undergone nanotechnology-based therapy to not only cure them of disease but also restore their youth and vitality - The “therapied”. This therapy seems to be regressing but why? There is another group of people, the “disAffected” who are unwilling to undergo therapy and have no prospects for happiness. Jack Giffey is a criminal who is disgusted with the way the planet has become and is putting together a team to raid “Omphalos” which he feels is a symbol of all that is wrong in the world: A large automated complex in the middle of Green Idaho, Moscow that provides life suspension/preservation facilities for wealthy clients. Alice Grale is a porn star whose liaison with a wealthy businessman results in his suspicious death so is sought by Mary Choy from Seattle Public Defence who has been investigating sexual slavery. Johnathan Bristow, a nano-technician, is recruited into a small, secret group of wealthy businessman seeking to change the world and bring about an end to therapy, and bring real change to society. Jill is a self-aware artificial intelligence (AI) that has come across another AI that appears to be a renegade.

This is a novel of differences (hence the “slant” title): Between people and ideologies. Lifestyles and love. It is truly a dystopia full of dysfunctional people and things. I did not find it in any way an easy read and have even had a hard time describing it above. In Slant Bear tells the story from the viewpoint of the key characters and much of the novel I spent figuring out what was going on and the rest of it trying to keep track of the characters. None of the people seem terribly happy and a lot of very bad things happen here. I can't say any of them I felt terribly sympathetic for.

The first half of the novel drags quite a bit but the pace picks up, as does the action, in the second half as things come to a head though it took me quite a long time to read. The style is quite pretentious, full of jargon and exposition that really slows things down and distracts. At the beginning of many chapters there are helpful excerpts from various “dataflow” sources that help at least in the understanding which I only really started having towards the end of the book.

A difficult read with some interesting and intriguing ideas but, I feel, not something I would want to read again nor really recommend despite many suggesting it is a “modern classic”. It is a shame because I generally really like Bear and his normally easy-going style. I am certain a lot of thought has gone into it and Bear has a lot of things to say but I simply did not hear it. I would simply prefer something a bit easier to read, myself.

Rating: “Not great, but not the worse”

Review Date: 2017-08-05

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Orbit

Publication Date: 1997

ISBN: 1857236114

Other reviewed books by Greg Bear: