Blurb Book Review: The Unfamiliar Garden by Benjamin Percy (spoilers ahead)

Yes I did get the image from Goodreads.com

This is the sequel to The Ninth Metal. I found it to be much more engrossing than the first.

To recap, a meteor struck Earth and left behind a ninth noble metal, one that has kinetic energy properties.

This novel follows the path of a couple: Nora, a detective and her husband Jack, a biologist who studies mushrooms. Their daughter Mia goes missing on the night of the meteor and this apparent abduction tears the couple apart. Nora dives into her work and Jack becomes a shell and almost ruins his career.

Five years after the meteor and the loss of their daughter, it rains heavily and mushrooms start popping up everywhere. People become infected with the fungus (grossly, but still interestingly) and begin killing each other in what looks like a ritualized fashion. Nora investigates the murders while Jack investigates the mushrooms.

The first book is referenced most of the way through this one. There’s nothing to tie them together except the meteor. None of the characters from the first book appear in this one. They’re both in the same universe, both involve the metal, but both have different story lines. But they both lead to the same thing: the creation of a door.

The first book had this door made of metal, created by the metal-eaters. This one was a door created by mycelium. This mycelium door is actually a kind of coffin for the daughter, Mia, who is miraculously still alive. She infects her parents by giving them some fungus to eat and they become a kind of hive mind.

This novel was much more interesting to read. The characters were easier for me to relate to and the story a bit easier for me to follow than the first novel. I’m looking forward to the third installment.

Of note: this is the fist book to mention COVID outright. Masks and sanitizer are mentioned, so is Seattle’s reaction to the virus. I was pleased to read this bit of actual history in a novel, and pleased that one character still wore a mask afterwards.

Blurb Book Review: The Ninth Metal by Benjamin Percy (spoilers ahead)

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Where did this image come from? Goodreads.com of course!

I’m not sure what I think of this book.

The cover is fantastic. Little sparkles dot the blackness and the extended fingerprint pattern is shiny. In the upper left corner is a pale rectangle with “A Comet Cycle Novel” inside. So this is the first book of the series. I liked the way the coloured pattern merges with the title on a backdrop of space. It’s accurate to the book in that this ninth metal, or omnimetal, merges with some humans.

The book itself was easy to hold, small enough for me to use only one hand. The binding wasn’t too tight. But I’m stalling.

I liked the author’s ability to describe the environment and the characters. Rich enough that I felt immersed throughout. The story was interesting enough: a meteor shower pummels Earth and leaves this ninth noble metal in its wake. The metal absorbs energy through kinetic force and is highly sought after. Two corporations – one that mined iron in the area and one that is trying to move into the area – fight over the land and the rights to mine this omnimetal.

That’s just the backdrop story though. This novel is more about the birth of superhumans. A boy and a man both are infused with this metal and have the ability to store up energy from destructive forces like gunshots and grenades and then propel that energy outward.

A third story exists as well. Some people are smoking and snorting the ground up metal. These addicts are called ‘metal-eaters’. Their eyes glow with the metal, they lose their hair, and they become focused on worshipping the metal. Near the end, the metal-eaters that lived on a kind of commune vanish through a gate of sorts. A gate that an addict created for the sole purpose of entering. The reader is not told where these people go.

So it’s a book with these three stories, all told fairly well. But I had to focus my attention to get through it. I was easily interrupted and didn’t mind putting the book down. This was in part because the first two thirds of the book felt like an introduction and there were enough characters that I got confused about what was going on. I suspect that if I’d read with more vigor I wouldn’t have been as confused.

I do have a couple of nitpicks. One character, Stacie, always ate sugar. She’s a peacekeeper/police officer and would offer Starburst candies to everyone. I could not, at any point, believe this to be true. I felt like the reason for her sugar addiction/intake would be explained but it wasn’t, not really. Except to say that she believed her offerings to be disarming or something. Honestly, I found it annoying. Like yes, fine, okay, sure, she’s offering candy again. And not just any candy, but Starburst. If this was a movie then I’d be certain that Starburst paid for product placement.

One line slipped past the editors but stood out to me. On page 214 a character is making a fishing fly. In between dialogue the author wrote, “With his thumb he tested the prick of the fly’s barb with his thumb.”. This author has written several novels, all of which were likely edited. How was this missed?

I’m hoping the next book in the series is a bit more engaging and holds my attention better than this one. I still recommend it, but only in passing.