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Evolution's Shore (aka Chaga): 01/22/10
A funny thing happened on the way to write this post. See I remember reading a short story that feature the Chaga or something very similar to the Chaga. I even remember writing a review of the story. There's just one problem; I can find no evidence of having done either. Further more, I can't prove that such a story exists! The existence (or not) of a short story set in the same universe as Evolution's Shore (aka Chaga) by Ian McDonald has no bearing on the strengths and weaknesses of the novel.
In 2002 over the rings of Saturn something weird happened. Meanwhile an object has crash landed on Mount Kilimanjaro and that something is forever altering everything it touches. How exactly it's altering things is kept a closely guarded secret. Gaby McAslan and her SkyNet news team to Africa to report the story. Evolution's Shore is mostly her story.
Here's where things get a little muddled. The book is presented as a disaster novel. Whatever the Chaga are they represent the potential to forever alter or destroy life as we know it. To keep things in the disaster genre the book is mostly "real to life" with a large cast of characters, an over abundance of details and a romance for Gaby. That sort of thing works great when the threat is something tangible: earthquake, flood, drought, hurricane, and so forth.
Weird ass evolution from space, in other words, something unknown, something "other" brings the book into the realm of horror. It's the fear of the unknown. With that expectation, things need to happen early and with building frequency. People need to disappear, or mutate or eat other people or something. In this regard Evolution's Shore fails.
Comment #1: Sunday, January, 31, 2010 at 09:51:15
The mystery story you're thinking of might be "Tendeleo's Story," which is set in the same universe. For my money it's quite a bit better than Evolution's Shore it captures the alien weirdness of the Chaga quite a bit better. Other possibilities: the novel Kirinya and the story "Toward Kilimanjaro," both set in the same universe.
Comment #2: Tuesday, February 2, 2010 at 10:08:58
I keep very good records of what I read and Evolution's Shore is the only thing by Ian McDonald I've read. Whatever is reminding me of his Chaga universe was written by someone else.