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February 3, 2010

Small Miracles by Edward M. Lerner

Small Miracles by Edward M. Lerner is a novel about nanobots. 

Unfortunately that's all it's about. There's one idea and it's stretched to a novel length. That idea is that nanobots have been crafted into an indestructible suit, a suit which injects the nanobots into your body in the case of first aid. The first time this happens the bots cross into the brain and begin to take over.

The setting is the corporation where the bots are made and it's uninspiring: offices, factory floors, laboratories. The external location is described multiply, covered with snow and cold, and is not the slightest bit enthralling. The effect is to deaden what should be an exciting idea.

Small Miracles suffers in comparison with other books about nanobots, most notably The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. The Diamond Age is dense and mysterious and exciting and stretches the idea of what may be possible with nanobots to the edge. Small Miracles is unfortunately thin and weak and the opposite end of the spectrum to The Diamond Age.

I assume that the science in Small Miracles is accurate, but to be honest I have no idea. After several paragraphs of Biology speak I switched off, forgot the acronyms and ignored the science. This is exactly my argument against Hard SF, when done badly it's tedious, even detracting/distracting. To enable all the science speak there was a lot of "So, Bob, what about the CSF?", "The CSF Alice? You mean the Curly Straight Foobars?" etc. 

Which brings me onto the execution of the novel, the actual writing, which was not to my taste at all. Far too much telling. Far too much thinking out loud, italics, and spelling things out. I found it hard work, struggling to ignore the words and get pulled into the story.

Perhaps the market for Small Miracles may be the non-SF fan who wants a thin airport thriller? But for me, ultimately, nothing worked in this novel and I didn't enjoy it. 


Greg Bear's 'Blood Music' still holds up very well, although it was written in 1985.

Isn't the idea of a nanobot suit that takes over your brain exactly the premise of Michael Crichton's Prey?