Tendeleo's Story by McDonald, Ian, 2000

Tendeleo's Story by McDonald, Ian

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As I mentioned in one of my more recent reviews, I am a very big fan of the SF writings of Ian McDonald. One of my favorite tales from McDonald is the Chaga sequence, which is composed of Evolution's Shore (Chaga in the UK), Kirinya (not to be confused with Kirinyaga, but Mike Resnick), this novella, Tendeleo's Story, and five or six short stories, many of which have made it into Gardner Dozois' yearly Best Of collection for whatever years they were published. Tendeleo's Story is the most recent Chaga installment, and is most likely not the last. This story is a touching and sweet love story set in the backdrop of an odd alien invasion. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

One day soon I will get around to reviewing McDonald's first two Chaga books, as they are easily as good or better than this story. They focus on the invasion of Africa by nanoprobes from the neubula Rho Ophiuchi from the point of view of western powers and UN personell who are trying to analyze and stop what is going on. In the very near future various nanopackets impact the African landscape like comets, and start devouring and remaking everything that comes within the blast zone save for animal tissue. The Chaga land in various parts of the continent and begin spreading at a steady 50 meters per day, swallowing more and more ground daily at an exponential rate. The Chaga front spreads in circles until one front meets another, and it stops for nothing. Nobody really knows what is going on inside the Chaga owned circles, but it is known that many people did not get away before being overtaken. In fact, the Chaga seems to be a kind conqueror. People inside the Chaga develop incredible abilities, including extremly fast healing, immunity to disease (and healing from every disease present at the time of first contact), and long life. Chaga also gives nanotechnology to persons inside, and, for example, trees grow that make electricity, and wells are there for the wishing.

But nobody on the outside really knows about this. All that is seen is a terrifying and alien invader marching slowly towards villages and cities. The first part of the book tells of the fall of Nairobi, which is trapped between two advancing Chaga circles and is a refugee point for over 12 million people. The titular character, Tendeleo Bi is a 16 year old daughter of a pastor from a village called Gichichi. Her family is forced from thier village and subjected to all the typical humiliations we see in forced diasporas in Africa. She moves to Nairobi ahead of the front and grows very hard very quickly. To earn money she secrets vials of Chaga tissue inside herself to the American Embassy where she meets a pederast and ultimately blackmales him to "chip" her so she can be moved out of the country before the Chaga gets there. In the last few days of Nairobi everything goes to Hell, and in a frantic dash to find and save her family, Tendeleo is exposed to Chaga nanites. In the frantic rush to get everyone out the UN peacekeepers think that she is an American spook because she is chipped, and allow her outside the quaratine zone. This scene closely resembled our own flight from the Vietnamese embassy at the end of that war. Tendeleo eventually makes her way to Manchester and meets and falls in love with an Irishman of African descent, Sean. The couple are then split apart when a terrorist bomb detonates near the cafe that Tendeleo works in, and she heals immediately. The authorities get one look at that, and off she goes to Africa. Sean soon follows, and the two are tenderly reunited. Tendeleo is now an emmisary of Chaga civilizations who travels freely between infected and non-infected lands, bringing people into the Chaga to live. Together the couple remakes the ruined village of Gichichi, but they dont live happily ever after, as reivers in the employ of various western powers and other local African powers frequently enter the Chaga with an immunity spray, and assassinate anyone they see.

This is the only part of the Chaga story that fully centers on the African perspective, and I imagine its the kind of thing that finds deep and true reflections in our own reality. The west, scared for the loss of its economy and way of life, does whatever it can to contain and/or destroy alternate ways of life in remote parts of the world. In this story the general public does not know what the Chaga is, but governments figure out early that the basis for the Chaga's actions is nanotech. They well know that access to nanotech will give users the ability to create or do virtually anything on thier own. Can you imagine the fear that degree of play-field-leveling would cause in the west? I really hope that McDonald picks this series back up again. As far as I can tell, he hasnt touched it since 2000 or so, with the publishing of this book. If you come across this book, give it a try. And please dont let the uber-cheesy computer graphics on the cover throw you off.

Copyright 2007, Gregory Tidwell

Reviewed by GTT · Rating Rating of 4 star(s)


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