Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation

Liu, Sylvia. Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation
June 21st 2022 by Razorbill
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Hana lives in a much changed Virginia in 2053. Now, corporations dictate the way society operates much more than politics, technology is everywhere and people's brains are "enmeshed", wired into the internet (some even use the term "Brain Jack", hearkening back to Falkner's 2010 title!), and because of the ascendency of the tech company I Ching, Chinese culture is widespread and popular. Hana's mother is a well regarded and powerful geneticist working long hours for I Ching, but her father was recently killed in his line of work as a hostage negotiator. Her older sister, Lin, is due to become enmeshed, and Hana worries that the two won't be as close afterwards. She makes one of her small automata to give to her, and has an interesting run in with a scavenger in the dump in the Bottoms. The girl gives Hana a scroll with sensitive information on it, and Hana has to go back and find her. Hana is excited about going to school at Start-Up, an elite academy for those who are hard working and determined. When she finds out that the year long program will be compacted into a summer, she's even more thrilled. Her grandmother, Popo, who is in the beginning stages of dementia because she was never enmeshed, voices her concerns about this procedure and warns her not to do it. Hana makes some friends at Start-Up, like Chuck (Charlene) and Tomas, but when students start becoming ill, she wonders if the work that her mother is doing at I Ching studying zombie ant fungus and DNA has something to do with it. Aided by Ink, the girl from the dump, and her mentor Wayman, Hana and her friends work to uncover what evil the corporations must have in store while trying to do well in the school competitions in virtual reality. 
Strengths: This was a brilliantly conceived futuristic society with lots of information and a fun and well explained Chinese flavor. The multiweb neural implants and widespread use of technology in the very near future (I could possibly still be alive, but I'd be 88), is incredibly detailed, and we get just enough background about the tech wars, the rise of corporations, and how society has changed since the grandmother was young in the 1990s. Start-Up is an intriguing school, and the classes and activities are ones that will appeal to my students, who are much more interested in virtual reality than I am. Hana is a well developed and likeable character who is not only facing realistic problems like her older sister's separation from her, making new friends, dealing with her father's death, and her grandmother's dementia, but also with saving the world from the evil corporations, one of which her mother works for. The Ghost Carb Nation is a group of concerned individuals who are opposed to the reach of technology, and Ink and Wayman make convincing arguments against the involvement of corporations and government into the lives of individuals. I'm siding with them and with Popo on that: stay away from my neural pathways, thank you very much. I don't even turn the WiFi on to my phone most of the time, and rarely carry it with me. We also have fun things like enmeshed cats with translators, a Ye Olde Shoppes mall where tech is blocked to recreate the 1990s, and reading old school I Ching. 
Weaknesses: I do so wish this had started out as more of a EUtopia, like Condie's Matched. I felt like Hana was exposed to the seedy underbelly of society way too soon, and the grip of the corporation would have been more wrenching had she been more absolutely thrilled with her world. Also, why does every vision of the future involve form fitting spandex? Is the original Star Trek to blame for the evils of running tights and leggings as pants? 
What I really think: I'll buy this one, because there haven't been a lot of good dystopian novels lately, but it's not going to be for the casual reader or ones who don't like science fiction. It's great for readers who are really interested in technology, and again, there aren't that many newer books about this (see also the aforementioned Brain Jack, Kincaid's 2012 Insignia, Dashner's 2013 Eye of Minds, or Klavan's 2014 Mindwar.) Hand to readers who enjoyed McCullough's Jinxed, Hautman's The Flinkwater Factoror Korman's Masterminds.       

Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. Oooh, I hadn't heard of this book, but it looks interesting! I'm with you on the form-fitting spandex. That is NOT what I have in mind when I think of futuristic, super comfortable, all-inclusive clothes. In fact, just imagining having to squeeze into one of those things is basically a nightmare.

    It's really interesting that dystopia is so big in YA but there doesn't seem to be much for MG. I'd be tempted to get this one for that alone, as you said. Surely there are MG readers who are also interested in some form of dystopia.