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Robin Wasserman
Simon Pulse, 440 pages

Robin Wasserman
Robin Wasserman enjoys writing about high school -- but wakes up every day grateful that she doesn't have to relive it. She recently abandoned the beaches and boulevards of Los Angeles for the chilly embrace of the East Coast, as all that sun and fun gave her too little to complain about. She now lives and writes in New York City.

Robin Wasserman Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Dan Shade

This is my first book review for the SF Site. I am excited to become a member of this international team and to have the opportunity to review some of the exciting science fiction and fantasy (SFF) that's being written for young adults. I've been reading young adult SFF almost exclusively for the past five years. Young adult SFF is seeing unprecedented growth. Many mainstream authors are crossing over and writing for young adults. Many of the novels I've read and felt were outstanding are debut books. Kristin Cashore, author of Graceling and Fire, is a good example having produced two of the finest books I've read in a long time. Other more established authors are building very interesting worlds. For example, Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games and Catching Fire are also worthy of praise and awards. I hope to touch on many of the books I've previously read when I review their sequels. But for now, let's talk about Crashed.

Ever since reading I, Robot by Isaac Asimov, I have long anticipated the coming of robots and androids. However, having just turned 58, I don't think I'll see them in my lifetime. And though I'm impressed with robots that build cars and perform delicate medical procedures, they leave me cold. So, I am forced to find my androids where I can and Robin Wasserman has given me some very interesting ones to read about. In the tradition of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick, we find ourselves faced with robots who "more human than human (Blade Runner). They are rejected by most of mankind, their creators, and find little peace among themselves. Their lives are empty and often spent in seriously dangerous activities, such as jumping out of planes without a parachute, so they can feel the rush. And what the Mechs call a feeling is not the same as our perception.

Crashed, by Robin Wasserman, is the second book in an exciting trilogy. The first book was Skinned and the forthcoming third book will be titled Wired. The first two books take place in a future where there has been war and terrible poverty (not much explanation is given regarding how we got where here). There are, however, an elite few who have the credits to live well. They have nothing but the finest. America's cities are the refuge of the diseased. No credits, no cure. All of the cities are in various states of decay. Then there are the CorpCities, owned and operated by corporations. You work for the Corp, live in Corp housing, and eat Corp food. It's called life without a union, sort of like mining for coal in West Virginia a hundred years ago. How does the song go? "You load sixteen tons, what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt. Saint Peter, don't you call me, 'cause I can't go; I owe my soul to the company store." Thank you Tennessee Ernie Ford. But many think living in a CorpCity is better than starving to death in a city. Those in the cities feel the freedom they have is more than adequate payment for starving to death or dying of some horrible disease.

Finally we have the rich living in their big homes in the country. How these class distinctions came to be is not explained very well in Skinned or Crashed. Maybe they were rich before the wars and ecological disasters. Maybe they got rich because of the war. Certainly BioMax, the company who builds, maintains, and backs up the memories of Mechs is doing well. However nice as it is to live in a mansion, be connected to the web at all times, wear the latest fashions, go to school, and have friends; this group of people have something on one else on earth has -- the credits to stay alive forever. That's right! These folks no longer need fear death. If they are seriously injured, their minds can be downloaded to a new Android body, just like the Cylons on Battlestar Galactica. They are called Skinners by those against the process and they choose to call themselves Mechs. On the other hand, the procedure looks very attractive to me. Heck, the way Robin Wasserman describes it; I'd volunteer for a Mech body right now! Forget my aortic heart valve that came from a cow. I wouldn't need it anymore. Nor would I ever get sick, feel pain, or suffer in any way.

This brings us to our protagonist -- Lia Kahn. Lia was a human or what Mechs call an Org. She lived with her parents and sister Zo in a beautiful home where they all pretend to be happy. Lia was part of the elite at high school. She was a trendsetter. People wait to see what Lia was wearing before they went shopping. She dated the best looking and richest boys and had a fabulous time with her friends. Life was mostly a bowl of cherries for Lia. That is, until the car accident which left her nothing but a broken and burned stub of a body. So, Lia's father decided to "save" her by having her mind downloaded into an android body. It was a decision he made while overcome with grief and one he'd live to regret.

However, instead of this being the beginning of a bright, new life, it becomes a nightmare. When we meet Lia again in Crashed she has come to terms with who and what she is -- a machine. Which I think is a sad thing. She lives and interacts solely with Mechs. Which I think is a bad thing. The book begins with Lia giving a tour of the "facilities" to brand new Mechs. The facilities are provided by one extremely rich Mech. It includes a huge home, acres of ground, pools, tennis courts, etc. Room for hundreds of Mechs to live and party together.

This happy scene doesn't last long. There are already tensions between the Mechs and the Orgs. The Orgs are calling for BioMax to stop making Mechs and to reduce the rights of a Mech to live a free life. Soon a terrible disaster occurs in which hundreds of Orgs are thought killed. The media captures Lia's face on camera and blames the terrorism on her. It looks like war is coming between the Mechs and Orgs and poor Lia is doomed to be right in the middle of it.

I can highly recommend Crashed as well as Skinned. And I'm looking forward with much anticipation to Wired. Robin Wasserman is a skilled writer who knows how to make her story believable. Her characters are not as deep as other books I've read but they come alive in an almost 3D fashion. There's plenty of action and the books are a quick read (for me that's a week, for my 12-year-old daughter it's overnight). I liked these books so well that I'm keeping them for my home collection. Since I'm out of bookshelf space, that says something.

Copyright © 2010 by Dan Shade

Dan Shade is a retired college professor who loves to read young adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror. But he doesn't draw the line there. He also enjoys writing science fiction and hopes to publish someday. In the meantime, you can find him at (under construction).

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