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Fine Prey
Scott Westerfeld
Roc Books, 288 pages

Fine Prey
Scott Westerfeld
Fine Prey is Scott Westerfeld's second novel. When not writing fiction, he divides his time as composer and new media designer. He lives in New York.

Scott Westerfeld's Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Polymorph

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Thomas Myer

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With Fine Prey, Scott Westerfeld continues a fine writing career, as promised by his debut Polymorph. In Polymorph, Westerfeld explored the labyrinth of identity and gender; in Fine Prey, he examines the themes of transformation and contiguity.

First, contiguity: with breathtaking style, Fine Prey whips together the fields of equestrianism, genetic engineering, and linguistics; slathers on the base emotions of bloodsport; carefully adds layers of alien philosophy, human alienation, and class consciousness. The effect is something like pitting the USS Missouri against Godzilla in a tsunami-battered bathtub. The modulation caused by these cultural intersections makes this a very enjoyable, and deep read. (Just so you won't say I didn't warn you -- you will have a physiological reaction to the bloodsport depicted in this novel.)

Then, transformation: Fine Prey's protagonist, a young woman nicknamed Saint Spider, is a student of Aya culture. She is completely immersed in learning the Aya's language, their culture, their way of living -- so much that she is beginning to lose her own human identity. But she's not just changing as a result from her contact with an alien culture. Her love of the hunt, her heart rushing at avalanche speed, the smell of the kill in her nostrils: this too is transforming her. The two extremes of her life -- the calm and utterly alien introspective side vs. the adrenaline-spurting bloodsport side -- are beginning to erode her center... and as you know, nature abhors a vacuum.

As in Polymorph, Westerfeld again shows deft and elegant skill in portraying niche groups in a near-future society. We not only meet the cultural/societal entourage (and their assorted baggage) associated with the hunt, we learn that there is a fine hunt and a claw hunt. And Westerfeld keeps drilling down, ensuring that we never make any assumptions or create comfortable generalities. We meet the rich kids of the fine hunt, and learn something about each of them that easily contradicts what any of us may think about a futuristic leisure bloodsport class. And the claw hunt participants aren't just brutish philistines and low-brow jackals -- they've got a whole set of outlooks and needs, too. It seems that every character has a motivation, a passion (gee! just like in real life!).

Unlike Polymorph, Fine Prey's pace is moderate. Instead of a hundred-yard dash, the reader is greeted with a triathlon of effects; you can literally hear Westerfeld's gears winding out in the stretches.

If you like honest authors who clearly command their material (and your attention), give this fine book a read.

Copyright © 1998 Thomas Myer

Thomas Myer is a writer, editor, and vegan. Whenever he gets a chance, he works on his homepage, takes long bike rides, and thinks up excuses for not writing.


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