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Circle Tide
Rebecca K. Rowe
Edge, 271 pages

Circle Tide
Rebecca K. Rowe
Rebecca K. Rowe earned a Master's in Mass Communications/Journalism from the University of Denver and a Master's in International Relations from the University of Southern California. She is the associate editor of the Speculative Literature Foundation newsletter, as well as a member of the Denver Woman's Press Club. Her first novel was a finalist in the Colorado Book Awards for 2007.

Rebecca K. Rowe Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

Rebecca K. Rowe's second novel, Circle Tide, follows in the footsteps of her first novel, Forbidden Cargo, moving the action from Mars to an Earth that has already been affected by the developments recounted in the first book. That includes MAM, a technology that gives anyone endowed with its abilities access to the entire library of human knowledge, and the spread of a mysterious fungus that is threatening the habitability of buildings across the landscape of Los Angeles.

Enter Rika Grant, a data thief charged with investigating one of the first buildings where the fungus has taken over. Rika's implants have reacted with her brain in unexpected ways, giving her abilities that could be perceived as a threat to both her employers at the Institute of Extended Cognition, and to their rivals and enemies alike. When Rika's path crosses that of Noah, the least-favored son of a wealthy, powerful family, a plot involving mystery, betrayal, hidden secrets, politics and even a bit of romance kicks off into high gear.

While Circle Tide's roots in cyberpunk are immediately evident, it's hard to look at the cover illustration and not think of Neuromancer's Molly, Rowe combines that attitude and style with an environmental consciousness and a look at a society built around social networks and the availability of information. It's a world where environmental degradation has forced most of the population into narrowly defined urban areas, while the few work to restore the remaining wilderness and resurrect the species that have been lost. It's also a world that has been strictly separated into the haves and the have-nots, with the have-nots literally forced to live underground. Rika and Noah's adventures take them through the entirety of this urban society, from the underground refuges of the poor to the penthouse estates and rooftop gardens of the wealthy.

That's not to say Circle Tide is without any flaws, Rowe is a writer who is learning her craft, and she has a tendency to throw in too much background information at the beginning of the novel, instead of letting the characters and their actions speak for themselves. Conversely, by the end of the novel there's a feeling that not enough has been explained about how the various power centers in this world, from the Domus's to the Institute and a significant new religion evolved and interact with each other. But that could also fall under the heading of leaving the reader wanting more, and from the evidence of her first two novels that's exactly what Rebecca K. Rowe intends to do. In that context, Circle Tide is a fine science fiction novel with characters finding their way through a future that is both an out-growth of, and substantially different from, our own.

Copyright © 2011 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L. Johnson suspects that if he found himself in the world of Circle Tides, his life would be spent in the wilderness. Greg's reviews have appeared in publications ranging from The Minneapolis Star-Tribune to the The New York Review of Science Fiction. And, for something different, Greg blogs about news and politics relating to outdoors issues and the environment at Thinking Outside.

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