“-Falling just means you’re someone else when you stand up.” – Debris
In the world of Debris by Jo Anderton, pions – the sentient energy that composes reality – can be coerced into shaping matter and performing whatever task is required. The veche who rule the city of Movac-under-Keeper employ powerful pion “binders” to perform all the city’s vital functions. In a world where pions are manipulated by will tempered with natural ability, Tanyana is a highly-skilled architect and binder. However, when a tragic accident causes her to fall – both physically and metaphorically, severe injuries cost her the precious pion sight. No longer able to see the bright particles essential for her work, she instead gains the ability to see debris – the dark chaotic byproduct of pion manipulation.
Anderton leads the reader through a bizarre world where science works like magic and the forces of darkness and light constantly battle. Tanyana, in her new role as a debris collector – one of the lowest rungs of her society, has been fitted with a suit to enable her to “collect” the dark particles and planes of debris; if left undisturbed, an overabundance of the dark material causes havoc to the city’s pion systems and becomes a danger to Movac’s inhabitants. Yet, as she learns of her increasing abilities with the mechanical suit that has been grafted to her body, she is drawn into ever increasing dangers and darkness. She fights to come to terms with her new life while unraveling the mystery surrounding debris’ true nature, its relationship to pions, and her connection to the sudden surge of debris threatening the city.
Many of the characters throughout the narrative carry secrets of their own, and not everyone is what they seem. Small mysteries blossom into larger ones, and Tanyana never knows who to trust. The action and intensity build as Tanyana and her collecting team are hurled from one terrifying situation to another. The pages can’t turn fast enough.
The theme of the falling occurs throughout the narrative: metaphorically, physically, and emotionally. Fallen from the height of power to the lowest ranks of her society, Tanyana must come to terms with what she has lost and find meaning in her new life. Yet, the battle between the known and unknown, the darkness and the light, rages in every dark corner, and behind closed doors – spilling into the open streets. Action, mystery, and intense passion hurl the reader through the story at breakneck speed.
My one complaint is that the ending does not answer the book’s most fundamental questions, but, rather, it attempts to deepen the mystery. There is the sense that everything will become clear, but Anderton is not quite ready to dispel the veil she’s cast over the reader’s eyes just yet. Some motives and mechanisms are revealed while others remained hidden. However, despite these lingering enigmas, the book still leaves the reader satisfied and anxious for the sequel. I know what my next read will be.
This novel is a surprising mix of classic themes and innovative world building. The characters of its fantastic world are both heart-wrenching and awe-inspiring. Debris is a perfect choice for science fiction fans with a taste for thought-provoking, suspenseful stories that create a unique world all their own.