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Chaos on CatNet    by Naomi Kritzer order for
Chaos on CatNet
by Naomi Kritzer
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2021 (2021)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Chaos on CatNet follows Catfishing on CatNet as the second in Naomi Kritzer's extraordinary YA series starring Steph (whose mother had always kept them on the run from an abusive husband) and the online community of oddballs that became such an important part of her life - CatNet, administered by AI CheshireCat. By the end of the first episode, CheshireCat's secret was outed to the CatNet crowd.

As this episode opens, Steph's father is safely jailed. They've learned that her parents' former business partner, Rajiv, is still alive. Steph believes there's another AI out there - and that AI sends a message to CheshireCat, who's at a loss on how to respond, and starts by trying to learn more about the AI and what it is doing. Steph helps them with that research.

Steph's life finally has some permanency and she makes a new friend at school. Nell was raised in a religious cult. She remains, to some extent, a believer, though the Abiding Remnant would never accept the fact that she is gay. Nell is having trouble adjusting to life with her father, his girlfriend and her stepmother's girlfriend. Unable to contact her girlfriend Glenys, Nell suspects mistreatment.

The story is told from the alternating points of view of CheshireCat, Steph and Nell. Steph and Nell start a MischiefElves app which assigns tasks and rewards. The Catacombs site assigns Nell more sinister tasks. CheshireCat and Steph help Nell track down Glenys and they eventually mount a daring rescue mission, with robotic assistance. Along the way, they learn that Rajiv is involved with the cult, as is the other AI.

Plans are afoot (Rajiv working through the AI) for a complete demolition of world order, 'to plant flowers in the ashes.' Can CheshireCat and Steph stop them in time? Chaos on CatNet is another wonderful read. This time, both the AI and Steph make new friends, and Steph gets to know her grandmother, who is quite a character. I can't wait to see where Naomi Kritzer takes this fantastic series next.

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