Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 287 (11/17) -- 7 Billion Needles, Vol. 2 by Nobuaki Tadano

Alien monsters always come back; they wouldn't be monsters if they didn't. So we all know that the big fight at the end of the first volume of 7 Billion Needles [1] wasn't as conclusive as it looked, and the alien body-stealing, mass-murdering energy being called Maelstrom wasn't actually dead...although it did look that way.

This second volume opens with a helpful recap of that big climactic battle, and then moves into the following summer vacation, when our heroine, teenager Hikaru, decides to go back to the quiet, bucolic southern island where her father died a few years ago. She's never been back to visit his grave, and a boy from the island named Masaya has been pestering her via postcard for some time. So far, so normal -- as if life is getting back to its normal rhythms, and Hikaru might be able to forget that there's still an alien (Horizon, the cop to Maelstrom's criminal) living inside her body.

But of course Maelstrom isn't gone, and of course he and Horizon must fight again. Creator Nobuaki Tadano does avoid a re-run of the first volume, turning this second confrontation into a psychological battle inside a simulacrum world, rather than the Akira-esque melange of rolling waves of undifferentiated flesh and energy bolts of the first volume. And this volume has an unlikely ending that should lead to more interesting scenes in the back half of the series -- two more volumes will follow this one.

Hal Clement still would have trouble seeing his original novel Needle in this story, but he'd likely find this volume more along his lines than the super-battles of the first book. And 7 Billion Needles is actually pretty good SF as well -- leaving aside the gleeful violations of the rules of mass and volume -- with characters that have at least two dimensions and plotting that finds ways to avoid the obvious.

[1] Which I reviewed as Book-A-Day # 234.

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

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