infinity plus - sf, fantasy and horror non-fiction: reviews, interviews and features
infinity plus home pagefictionnon-fictionother stuffa to z

Metareview: Clade

by Mark Budz

(Bantam, US$7, 372 pages, paperback; December 2003; ISBN: 0553586580.)

Review by Peter D Tillman

Rating: "A-". A gritty Stablefordian Cal-biotech cover scanhard-SF future, and an exceptionally fine first novel.

Clade is set 50 years after a catastrophic ecological collapse, the 'ecocaust', a human-caused mass-extinction right up there with the "Big 5" worst in Earth's history. Civilization was saved by heavy-handed reengineering of the biosphere, but at a cost of billions of lives lost, and a tightly-regimented social setup. Budz does a nice job of worldbuilding in Clade, and handles the ambiguous costs and benefits of new technology very well indeed.

" Clade is a very accomplished first novel -- indeed, it's a very accomplished novel full stop. Budz's characters are well drawn, the Californian setting is vivid, and, without preaching, he makes some strong points about the fragility of our environment."
-- Graham Sleight,

"Sure, Clade has bitchin' new biotech. Sure, Clade has cool ideas and neat extrapolations and even funky AIs... But Clade also has mothers who love their children, brothers who stand up for each other, decent people trying to do the right thing, and a man and a woman who refuse to let this strange new world change what is most basic and human about them -- their love and respect for each other."
-- Lori Ann White, Strange Horizons

Decent hard-SF that makes a serious attempt to extrapolate the medium-term future is never in oversupply. This is my favorite kind of SF, so I was very pleased to discover Clade. There are, unsurprisingly, some first-novel rough spots here, particularly with the thriller-style plot, which suffers from some heavy-handed auctorial hammering-to-fit -- but, hey, you'll happily put up with a few warts for the technically-sweet payoffs in Clade. Budz is clearly an author to watch. A sequel, Crache, is promised for Fall 2004. I'm looking forward to it.

Budz, a Silicon Valley technical writer with training in physics and engineering, is married to respected fantasy writer Marina Fitch. Fitch helped Budz polish his ms.: "Marina's good at characters and finding loopholes in story consistency," he said.

Author website:

More reviews:

"Clade is an absorbing debut novel that, were it not for some unfortunate holes in plot logic, would have been a genre groundbreaker on the order of the best works by... William Gibson and Bruce Sterling..." --T. M. Wagner,

"I got the idea for bio-chemical mediated societies while reading about ants and how they exchange chemicals," Budz said... "I thought, 'What if people were like that? And what if it were all tied into social and economic differences?'" -- Santacruz Sentinel

Happy reading!

Elsewhere on the web:

Let us know what you think of infinity plus - e-mail us at:

support this site - buy books through these links:
A+ Books: an insider's view of sf, fantasy and horror (US) | Internet Bookshop (UK)