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Debris Dreams - David  Colby Dude, I can't believe you used sandcasters! No wonder David Colby has been contracted to write Traveller fanfic.

So here is my problem with Debris Dreams. It is everything I like in a SF juvenile. It's got action, hard SF, and a fun-but-serious space-based story in a zippy plot. And it's also got that all-important quality the kids love nowadays, inclusiveness. Which I think is totally cool. Yes, please, show more girls doing stuff, and gay people existing, and reminders that "spacefaring technological civilization" and "white people" are not synonymous.

That said, Debris Dreams is so earnestly look-at-me-do-you-see-how-inclusive-I-am? that it seemed that the inclusiveness often substituted for characterization and worldbuilding.

For example, Drusilla Xao, the main character. After reading this book, I know she's gay, and she's a spacer of mixed Anglo-Chinese ethnicity, like most spacers, and she's gay, and did I mention she's gay? Also, she's really quite lesbian.

Drusilla's desire to meet face-to-face with her long-distance Earthbound honey is supposed to be the hook, the driving force that motivates her, the thing that gives her hope, as she gets drafted into a war against the "Loonies," separatist Lunar rebels who blew up the space elevator, killing Dru's parents and thousands of other people and crippling interplanetary commerce.

However, Drusilla basically goes from scared teenager to war hero in the space of a few months (and a mere handful of battles), and her connection to Sarah (whom she calls "Sarah-bear") consists of chatty emails with emoticons and !!!!!! and flippant teenspeak that sounds very early 21st century, full of cultural references that would be unbelievably dated to think teenagers fifty years from now will be using them. Drusilla never does stop being a scared kid, and yet she winds up being the best soldier, the leader of every team, and often the only one to survive relatively unscathed. I believe the author intended a deliberate contrast, between the "hardened combat veteran" Drusilla appears to be in the media and the scared-shitless teenager who only first picked up a gun a few weeks ago that she is inside, but this isn't really executed convincingly because Drusilla never quite comes to life.

Possibly it's because I am jaded and do not buy "True love and soulmates over the Internet even though we've never met." Almost never happens (especially between teenagers) so I really doubt it's going to work out that way in the late 21st century between a spacer girl and an Earther. The Drusilla/Sarah sequences generally made me think the author was just going for the cheap squee.

Likewise, the Chinese American Alliance. Umm, okay? That's about what we get in the way of politics — the geopolitical axis has shifted, North America has been through some crashes and slumps and such, and now we have a Chinese American Alliance as the dominant hegemony, against the Loonies who have unspecified grievances for which they launch a terrorist attack followed by a war. So Chinese American Alliance is an excuse to make everyone biracial and insert random Chinese into the dialog.

There's a little bit of Starship Troopers in this book and a little bit of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and comparing David Colby's debut novel to Heinlein is probably unfair. I did like and appreciate the science (and the author kept the gushing "ain't this cool!" to a minimum), and the action sequences were pretty good and quite bloody, and there was some sense of the scars the bloodshed was leaving on Drusilla.

A good story and decent addition to the genre. Debris Dreams is very much a debut novel, with some writing weaknesses born of self-consciousness and trying too hard, but I hope David Colby matures as a writer and writes more SF like this. It's only 3 stars, but a solid 3 stars.