Accidental Creatures

Posted by : atcampbell | On : May 15, 2001

Accidental Creatures by Anne Harris

Ten people attended this meeting, and one person submitted comments by e-mail. This meeting’s topic was Accidental Creatures, the second novel by Anne Harris. The book is set in a future Detroit where the auto industry has gone into decline, and biotech is the city’s big new industry. The story involves genetic engineering, labor strikes, mutants, evil corporate executives, artificial intelligence, and funny accountants. The large cast includes scientists, white-collar workers, blue-collar workers, fringe people, and some who aren’t really human. Nine of the people at the meeting had finished the book.

We liked a lot about this book. Harris convincingly portrays the passion of the biotech scientists for their work. We don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but we found the secret science project was fascinating. The depiction of people on the fringe evoked a cyberpunk atmosphere that many of us hadn’t experienced since the 80s. The cultural evolution is interesting. The storytelling in the book is quite good, and the frequent action sequences are paced almost cinematically.

Harris obviously knows and loves Detroit. Several people in the group who’d lived in Detroit thought the city was described well. Harris’s use of the real-life Fisher Building was a major strength. This building serves as the headquarters of the biotech company in the book, and probably half the story is set there. Harris conveys a real sense of the space and layout of the building, which comes across well during the action near the end. The Fisher Building is as important to Accidental Creatures as was the building used in the movie Die Hard.

There were some problems. The story moved slowly for the first 40 pages or so. Many of us had quibbles with technological elements of the story, and felt the super science seemed more like magic.

Overall we thought Accidental Creatures was a successful novel. We had fun reading it, and felt it was the best book we’d read in months. We had dinner at Brick Oven Pizza near Symphony Square.

— A. T. Campbell, III