Chill by Elizabeth Bear (Jacob’s Ladder 2) a Review

The chilling aftermath to the cataclysmic events in Dust deals with restoring the ship which in turn reveals new sinister powers and old enemies are not taking it lying down. And the questions remains, now that the ship is traveling again, where to go?

Title: Chill
Author: Elizabeth Bear
Series: Jacob’s Ladder
Cover art: Philip Lee Harvey
Paperback: 336 pages
Spectra Feb 2010
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Sometimes the greatest sin is survival.

The generation ship Jacob’s Ladder has barely survived cataclysms from without and within. Now, riding the shock wave of a nova blast toward an uncertain destiny, the damaged ship—the only world its inhabitants have ever known—remains a war zone. Even as Perceval, the new captain, struggles to come to terms with the traumas of her recent past, the remnants of rebellion aboard the ship still threaten the crew’s survival.

Yet as Perceval’s relatives Tristen and Benedick play a deadly game of cat and mouse in pursuit of a traitor through a vast ship that is renewing itself in strange and dangerous ways, an even more insidious threat is building in a place no one ever thought to look. And this implacable enemy could change the face of the ship forever if a ragtag band of heroes cannot stop it.

I went into Chill with somewhat less expectations than Dust. The ship AI were reintegrated by Rien, one of the characters i rooted for in Dust, making her sister Percival the new captain. I am always unhappy when a main character I root for is removed, but to my surprise it worked quite well here. Perceval is distraught by grief and shrink back from what is needed to do and it is up to the reintegrated angel to bring her out again.

The ship is about 43% operational after surviving the Nova blast. They start to restore the Dead. Original ship crew who where frozen eons ago are restored in mind but in new bodies. Seeing how they react to what have happened to the ship is interesting and I would have liked to see more of that. The restoration doesn’t go all well, there is blind areas Perceval can’t connect to and they start to grow.

The plot centers around Tristen and Benedick. Tristen is one of the reawakened Dead. He woke to a broken body and ship to become the new 1st Mate. We glimpsed Benedick Conn, the father of Perceval and Rien in Dust, here we get to know him better. The story is basically a long hunt for their old enemy Arianrhod where they discover new areas on the ship, meet some of the result of the forced evolution and devolution that has taken place.

Gavin and Mallory start to rebuild the tree library is an interesting side story that greatly helps building the lore.

Some of the medieval Saga feeling of Dust is gone in Chill and it becomes more of a traditional adventure in my mind even if there is a ‘dragon’ at the end of the quest. Chill is a good read but feels a bit short, Tristen and Benedick tracking Arianhod could have benefited from a bit of faster pace while the end happens very fast. But this could also be me getting down from the High of Dust, second books in a great series have a tendency to do that to me. I don’t know when the third book, Grail will be out, my guess is 2011 and I can’t wait to get it.

The generation ship that looses it’s purpose have been done before but Elizabeth Bear’s take on it feels different and new. There are still many secrets about the Builders, the ship and the world around them to lay bare, some are revealed in Chill but we have to wait for Grail before we hopefully learn the whole truth.

Chill is a good read inside the bigger lore of the Jacob’s Ladder’s Trilogy but you should read Dust first. I do recommend the series, it got great ideas and the blend of medieval saga and trans human technology gives a flair of LOTR meets The Diamond Age.