Seanan McGuire (seanan_mcguire) wrote,
Seanan McGuire

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Digitally divided: a review of DIGITAL DIVIDE, by KB Spangler.

There's always a little bit of awkwardness when a friend says "hey, will you read my new book?" They are, after all, your friend, and while you might well have sought out that book on your own to get to know your friend a little better, once they actually know you're reading it, then they might find out if you hate it. You might make them sad. (There is no perfect answer for this awkwardness, and I have generated it in my friends more than once when asking for blurbs. So saying "hey, will you read my new book?" is not a bad thing. It's just a fraught thing.) Consequentially, when KB Spangler sent me a copy of her first full-length novel, Digital Divide, I was at once happy—my friend wrote a thing!—and nervous—OH GOD MY FRIEND KNOWS I'M READING A THING. I waited a while before I started reading, is what I'm trying to say here, and finally grabbed it to keep me company on my book tour.

I am so glad I did. Digital Divide is the best book I've read in 2013. It's smart, savvy, endlessly entertaining, and gloriously smart, with a protagonist who really explores the line between humanity and technology. Rachel Peng is a half-Chinese, ex-Army, lesbian cyborg who just happens to be blind (a fact which she compensates for and conceals using clever cyborg trickery). None of these things define her. They inform her, they shape who she is, but what defines her is her own fierce brilliance, stubborn independence, and unwillingness to back off when there's ass to be kicked. If I have any regrets about Rachel Peng, it's that we're unlikely to ever see her front and center on a multiplex screen, cracking wise before she shoots somebody's kneecaps off. And we should. Rachel Peng is a bad-ass for the digital age.

There is one word of caution I should put down at this point: Digital Divide is a tie-in to KB Spangler's ongoing webcomic, A Girl and Her Fed; the two share a universe and several characters, although the main characters of Digital Divide are only side characters in the webcomic, and vice-versa. Because I read both, I can't promise the initial setup in Digital Divide wouldn't be slightly confusing for the uninitiated. That said, I think any initial confusion would pass quickly, done in by strong logic and a solid story.

If you want a book with a strong woman of color protagonist who is never belittled because of or reduced solely to the trappings of her gender, with a diverse, engaging supporting cast, with people of all sexualities and identities, and with an incredible amount of snark that never crosses the line into feeling forced, I urge you to pick up Digital Divide. Still not sure? Like most webcomics, A Girl and Her Fed is free to read; you can start there, get a feel for the writing, and then pick up a copy (available both digitally and in dead tree form).

Digital Divide. For those who want their awesome to be open to everyone.
Tags: book review, reading things
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