Thursday, August 07, 2008

Book Review: The Nitrogen Fix

Earth in the distant future is a strange place. It's not all robots and rocket ships. It's high in nitrogen and low in oxygen. Every macrobiotic life form you know is extinct except for humans. The humans have to go around in oxygen masks or live in specially designed buildings with loads of oxygen producing plants. The ice caps have melted. The surface is covered with volatile nitrogen based plants that burn or explode easily. Those plus some specially engineered life that can collect dissolved metals from the water and push those pellets up to where the shore once was.

And it's been this way for so long that nobody is completely sure what happened. Most people think that scientists were working on plants that created their own fertilizer and were successful beyond their wildest dreams. Some think that this isn't our native planet at all. Some people believe that the aliens that go around watching the humans must have changed the planet so they could live here.

There are many underground cities with strict population controls. When there are more children than the city can support they're sent off to separate schools and taught to live on the outside. Upon graduation they're cast out. Most die.

The book follows one family of traders: a man, woman, child, and alien. They have a small boat with an oxygen tent on it. They collect glass from flooded cities and the metal pellets and trade them with people who live in the cities.

During one delivery they discover that they're supplying a group of rebels who think that they can return the atmosphere to what they think it once was, one of pure oxygen. These people are dangerous and a little insane. When the father is kidnapped and the alien attacked the family has to save the family, stop the rebels, and figure out what really happened to Earth's atmosphere.

This isn't a great book but it's a good book. The primary draw is that it's significantly different from other science fiction books.


Mike Rhode said...

Geez, man, you could have mentioned Hal Clement's name. He wrote some seriously hard SF before he died. He definitely wasn't the best prose stylist in the biz, but he had some interesting ideas.

Ibid said...

I didn't dislike it. This just may not have been the book to introduce me to a new author.