Review: “The Cyanide Process,” Jennifer Rahn

Pros: Interesting worldbuilding; some good characters
Cons: Boring in places
Rating: 3 out of 5

Jennifer Rahn’s The Cyanide Process is about genetics researcher Gina Delgado, who has been disgraced and sent to work on a mining colony. Her new boss only gives her dribs and drabs of information about what they’re working on, so she’s never quite sure what her research is being used for. Meanwhile, her boss, who’s also a medical doctor, gets involved in finding marriage matches for the colonists–a challenge in a plague-stricken region.

There’s some interesting worldbuilding going on here. In particular, the disintegrating remnants of a now largely cyborg-driven semi-pirate fleet called the Yoshinogari is quite interesting. The member of the Yoshinogari we primarily deal with, Kurosawa, is also a very interesting character. For someone so ruthless, he has some fascinating good sides. Other characters are wonderful as well; Gina becomes friends with Leslie, one of the women brought in to make a match with one of the miners, and the two of them have a very expressive friendship. Their interactions become one of the most lively parts of the book, and Leslie’s character seriously improves Gina’s (up until Leslie’s arrival, Gina has been entirely sulking and morose).

The politicking is confusingly labyrinthine. It felt like there really wasn’t enough time in the universe to account for all that Gina’s boss, Samuel Greigsen, was up to. I expected his work to turn out to be more of a team effort, and I think that would have been more believable.

I must note for future authors: if you find yourself writing about how your main character is bored to tears over an extensive period of time, consider that the reader might be bored along with them. The in-depth discussion of mining processes is something I found seriously boring, and since a lot of the genetics material was at a level over my head, it read largely as technobabble to me. For reference, I’ve recently had college-level basic bio and anatomy, but haven’t taken any particularly genetics-oriented classes. If you have, you might find this material more engrossing than I did. The story didn’t entirely pull me in until more than 90 percent of the way through the book, at which point it actually became quite interesting. Much of what makes the Yoshinogari particularly noteworthy happens during that last ten percent.

As a minor note, but something spelling nitpickers might care about: hopefully at some point the author will learn the difference between discrete and discreet. Also, the Kvinesdal Elite mercenaries, who show up in a good chunk of the book, seem to get their name misspelled in multiple ways.

This is a decent book, but it just didn’t wow me, and it definitely had a few flaws.

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