Weeping Water by JT Ruby is an epic novel about cryonic suspension – freezing something with life-threatening injuries in order to heal them when there are significant advances in medical technology. It follows Annie, who dies in a plane crash in the eighties, and Elliot, who dies in a car accident in the nineties, as they try to piece together their lives after being unfrozen. Spanning many generations and covering cryogenics from every angle, Weeping Water is a fast-paced and thought-provoking read.
Like the best of science fiction, Weeping Water poses a number of interesting questions about advances in technology. One might think that saving a life is a good thing, but then there’s a whole lot of turmoil when you’re waking up 35 years later and everyone else has aged, and you’re the same age. The novel is at its best when focusing on the emotional issues surrounding cryonics. It’s like a time travel novel with a technology that’s more plausible than time travel, illustrating that these are issues we may one day need to face. The novel manages to be heartrending and fascinating at once.
The core problem with Weeping Water is an unevenness in tone and narrative drive. Though each character is interesting and well-drawn, some of the characters come and go quickly, and others are left out of the book for long periods, so they’re not woven into the overall story. There’s an extraordinarily fun novel within this 450-page work, but currently there is too much extrapolation that doesn’t necessarily service the story. The story itself is sometimes confused about its focus: is this a story about cryonics, and all the political and monetary issues surrounding a controversial technology? Is this a thriller about people waking up after being cryonically frozen? The answer is both, which would work better if the book didn’t take so much time between the different sequences.
The novel begins with a fantastically exciting and harrowing plane crash scene (so good that it could do well with being at the very beginning), with the lead character, Annie, but then we lose her story and are introduced to a new character on page 100 who works for a bank investing in a cryogenics company. At one point, there’s a sex scene that veers into erotica, and some scenes bounce back and forth between characters perspectives, making it unclear who’s doing the thinking. All told, Weeping Water needs a more thorough edit. It’s at times extraordinarily fast-moving and entertaining, but then has lulls and tone shifts that could be pared down quite a bit.
Make no mistake: the electric parts of this novel are incredibly entertaining. In many ways, this is the cryonics novel – a hugely ambitious undertaking – and JT Ruby is a bestseller-caliber writer. Each scene is written with great precision and clarity and the action scenes are pulse-pounders. As it stands, the book veers towards greatness but doesn’t quite reach it, and that’s more of a shame than a book that has no chance at all.
Don’t let these criticisms deter you from checking this book out. Again, being on the edge of a great book is pretty great. It just needed a bit more polish, and the novel would have the chance of being a bestseller. That’s no small praise. JT Ruby is an exciting and thoughtful author.
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