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Small Miracles    by Edward M. Lerner order for
Small Miracles
by Edward M. Lerner
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2009 (2009)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Edward M. Lerner, author of Fools' Experiments, tackles cutting-edge science once more in his new near-future, near-apocalyptic technothriller, Small Miracles, 'a novel of medical nanotechnology'. It begins with a bang as Garner Nanotechnology's lowly sales-support engineer Brent Cleary - doing a ride-along with a police officer to help generate interest in the company's experimental nanotech-enhanced protective jumpsuits - is caught in a pipeline explosion. He's the only survivor.

How does Brent stay alive, even with the severe injuries that result in 'six months of living hell' and recurring nightmares? His suit reacts to the holocaust by injecting him with autonomous first-aid nanobots (smaller than corpuscles) that stop the massive internal bleeding before they self-destruct as they were designed to do. But now that a recovering Brent is back in Utica, his best friend, Kim O'Donnell - who 'led the team that developed the system software for the nanobots' - finds him very changed.

At first Kim attributes Brent's personality differences to the painful months of recovery from the accident. But she wonders more and more about his constant use of silvered VR glasses (which spreads to other employees), and finally shares her concerns about her friend's situation with company doctor Dr. Aaron Sanders.

The chapter titles intrigue - Sowing, Dreaming, Waking, Breeding, Skirmishing, Warring, Reaping, and Epilogue - as they take the perspective of a growing Emergent awareness, something the author did just as successfully in Fools' Experiments.

Readers see Brent evolve, developing a new interest in the nanobot technoology - and a surprising generalist's ability to solve problems. This results in his being appointed 'technologist at large' reporting directly to Dan Garner. As the company gears up for a critical Army field trial, Kim and Aaron find themselves in a race against time to find a solution before humans 'become draft animals for their successors'.

Lerner ends his thought-provoking novel with a classic SF twist. I highly recommend Small Miracles to anyone interested in relatively near future SF, and in the fascinating possibilities of nanotechnology.

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