I’m always excited when people try to push the boundaries of SFF story-telling. Ambitious approaches are good, and we should encourage them. But they don’t always work. And Green Jay and Crow by D J Daniels (review copy from Rebellion) was a fail for me. It just doesn’t quite work.
There’s an interesting puzzle box story in there. Brom is hired by the local crime boss to collect a box and deliver it to a location. The box is “time-locked”, reflecting the value of its contents. Inevitably, the box goes astray and shenanigans ensue. The box contains mysterious medication that can help Eva. Eva is a 3D printed copy of a person that was designed to only live for a few days. But Eva is a girl on the run, desperate to live a separate life. As the story unfolds, Brom, Eva and his best friend Mac travel between parallel versions of the place they live in, meeting strange characters and trying to find a way to save Eva. That premise is incredibly engaging, but Daniels fails to deliver on it.
I was most frustrated by the characterisation of Brom, the point of view character for most of the book. Despite Mac being his best friend, Daniels writes Brom as having little or no knowledge of his friend’s past, motivations or their shared life in the place they live. Within the novel it is a technique to hide Mac’s motivations to enable a reveal later in the book. But it’s a lazy way of creating suspense that undermines the reader’s confidence in the writer and the work.
There are a lot of extremely intriguing things about the setting of the novel – particularly the alien Tenties that have arrived in the world; the 3D printing technology; the sentient robots; the parallel versions of the same place; the technology around travel between the parallel worlds; and strange cult-like figures. But the whole is put together in a way that feels chaotic and difficult to navigate. And Daniels doesn’t help you to find a coherent path through it.
It’s definitely an interesting work, but I don’t think it ultimately succeeds. I’ll keep an eye on Daniels as I suspect any future work – as she matures as a writer – has the potential to be extremely interesting.
Goodreads rating: 2*