July 26, 2017

Review: Wilders by Brenda Cooper

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What’s it like to live in a technological bubble?

We recently finished one of the best science fiction books we’ve read thus far this year, and wanted to share it with you in time to make your summer reading list. We’re talking about Wilders: Project Earth Book One by Brenda Cooper, out next week on June 13th from Pyr Books.

Fans of science fiction author Brenda Cooper and this space will recall our reviews of her previous books, The Diamond Deep, The Creative Fire, Spear of Light and Edge of Dark.

Wilders is set in the near future, in a world where encapsulated, high-tech cities exist amid a rugged patchwork landscape beyond that has largely reverted back to wilderness. Beyond the perimeter ecobots roam, directed to maintain the order of bringing the environment back from the brink, often acting like angels or devils to the humans living beyond the cities.

The main character Coryn Williams finds herself caught between these two worlds as she strikes out beyond the safe confines of Seacouver with her faithful companion bot Paula to find her lost sister.

Not only do I love the environmental issue presented in Wilders, but I also like the juxtaposition of technology. Anyone who has ever lost their phone or found themselves out of wi-fi range can sympathize with Coryn as she struggles to find her way beyond her technological comfort zone. How did we make our way before smartphones? I consider that era the first 75% of my life, and don’t feel guilty about obsessing over our first phone now.

But there’s also danger beyond the walls of the modern cities, and a revolution brewing that Coryn and her sister finds herself caught in the middle of. Wilders brings the clash of cultures into focus, as the future fate of culture is yet to be decided.

Wilders also looks at how social, cultural and political bubbles persist and what it takes to break through them. The lens of science fiction and the hero’s journey is a great way to bring cultural inequity to bear, and Cooper is a master of creating strong lead characters and putting them in bad situations, the sort of people that the reader can root for that do what’s right in the face of adversity.

There’s something else interesting going on in Wilders, in addition to the ecological and cultural messages. As with the Glittering Edge saga, Cooper addresses just how we’ll interact with true artificial intelligence in the relationship between Coryn and Paula. I can easily imagine people in the future actually preferring the company of artificial humans once the “uncanny valley” is crossed, rather than ye ole Mark 1.0 humans. Coryn can’t picture life without Paula, who has been her constant companion since childhood.

That’s lots to tackle in a first book, but Wilders brought it all together admirably. We breezed right though this one, and I can’t remember enjoying a science fiction novel as much since maybe Earth Girl, The Quiet War or maybe even The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack.

Where will the author take the Wilders saga in book two? This may be Brenda Cooper’s best series yet!

Be sure to read Wilders by Brenda Cooper, out next week from Pyr Books!

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