Review: Electric Forest

Posted: June 13, 2019 by in Books We Like...and Hate (3/5 single_star) Meta: Tanith Lee, Science Fiction

At first glance you’d think ELECTRIC FOREST by Tanith Lee would be a fluffy YA Sci Fi short novel. You would be wrong. Tanith Lee doesn’t know how to do fluffy, that’s your first clue. Instead we get a dark, cyberpunkish, Science Fiction story with seriously flawed characters, a world that is beautiful on the surface but has a dark undercurrent, and a question about the ethics of life-extending science.

The story opens with Magdala, a woman who moves through her dreary life in survival mode. She lives in a world where traditional birth no longer exists because it can produce physical deformities, as with Magdala. This is especially noticeable in a world where ubiquitous surgery and medical enhancements mean anyone with the money can be beautiful. She’s spent her life being mistreated, so it’s no surprise when she’s approached by a handsome man, Claudio, that she runs away. But he tracks her down and convinces her that he wants her help with a little science project of his. And it will make her beautiful.

Magdala’s ugly body is encased in an Avatar-like pod while her consciousness is transferred to a beautiful body and she begins a new, unexpected life that completely changes how she thinks about herself. But as time progresses and Claudio asks Magdala to do certain things, she begins to think that his intentions are less than altruistic and she suspects that his manipulations are more than his surface eccentricities: he may be the bad guy in all of this.

ELECTRIC FOREST takes twisty turns, even if some of the science is familiar. Tanith Lee’s prose is beautiful and her description of holographic scenery makes one ponder what’s real and what’s fake (and transitory) and how although Magdala’s real body is ugly, at least it’s real. And even though the science is familiar, there isn’t much detail about how it works or how it was created (or why it can go wrong), the story delves more into the ethics and politics if such a technology really did exist, which makes for a short and drama-laden storyline.

ELECTRIC FOREST: a fluffy YA Sci Fi short novel or a dark, cyberpunkish, Science Fiction story with seriously flawed characters? You might be surprised.

One of the main problems I had with this book are the characters. I didn’t like a single one of them, their behaviors bothered me, I didn’t always understand their motivations, and in the end I still didn’t understand what Claudio was trying to do. It reminds me of some of the modern television shows with their twisty dark characters, and which I can only stand a few episodes of. This means I am not the target audience, even though it was the pretty cover that drew me in at the start.

ELECTRIC FOREST is interesting in that it’s an exploration of timely themes as science discovers more and better ways to change ourselves. The results may not be what we think.

  • Recommended Age: 16+
  • Language: Some
  • Violence: An abusive relationship, physical peril
  • Sex: A detailed scene and references

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