Green Jay and Crow

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 1 Dec 2018

Member Reviews

I'm always excited when people try to push the boundaries of SFF story-telling.  Ambitious approaches are good, and we should encourage them.  But they don't always work.  And Green Jay and Crow by D J Daniels (review copy from Rebellion) was a fail for me.  It just doesn't quite work.

There's an interesting puzzle box story in there.  Brom is hired by the local crime boss to collect a box and deliver it to a location.  The box is "time-locked", reflecting the value of its contents.  Inevitably, the box goes astray and shenanigans ensue.  The box contains mysterious medication that can help Eva.  Eva is a 3D printed copy of a person that was designed to only live for a few days.  But Eva is a girl on the run, desperate to live a separate life.  As the story unfolds, Brom, Eva and his best friend Mac travel between parallel versions of the place they live in, meeting strange characters and trying to find a way to save Eva.  That premise is incredibly engaging, but Daniels fails to deliver on it. 

I was most frustrated by the characterisation of Brom, the point of view character for most of the book.  Despite Mac being his best friend, Daniels writes Brom as having little or no knowledge of his friend's past, motivations or their shared life in the place they live.  Within the novel it is a technique to hide Mac's motivations to enable a reveal later in the book.  But it's a lazy way of creating suspense that undermines the reader's confidence in the writer and the work. 

There are a lot of extremely intriguing things about the setting of the novel - particularly the alien Tenties that have arrived in the world; the 3D printing technology; the sentient robots; the parallel versions of the same place; the technology around travel between the parallel worlds; and strange cult-like figures.  But the whole is put together in a way that feels chaotic and difficult to navigate.  And Daniels doesn't help you to find a coherent path through it. 

It's definitely an interesting work, but I don't think it ultimately succeeds.  I'll keep an eye on Daniels as I suspect any future work - as she matures as a writer - has the potential to be extremely interesting. 

Goodreads rating: 2*
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Following two people, Green Jay/Eva and Crow/Brom, this story is about aliens, humants (part plant, part alien, part human people) and alternate realities. It has a beautiful cover and an intense description, and although the book is really unique in comparison to other books I've read lately, it just wasn't my new favourite. 

Crow/Brom is a delivery person. Usually, it's something easy, though he never really knows for sure what he's delivering. He has a friend named Mac/Blue Jay, who's probably the smartest person he's ever met. And the world they live in, though we don't actually get to know a lot about it, is full of aliens they affectionately call tenties, that have the power to adapt to any situation. 

Green Jay/Eva, is a double. That means she's been printed from a 3D printer, a copy of a celebrity or someone like that, who will disintegrate after a few weeks of being alive. The only problem is, is that she hasn't disintegrated. And the robots decided to help her escape. 

The book switches between the two characters, though they don't really have anything in common aside from being close with Mac/Blue Jay. That changes throughout the story. After obtaining a time locked package to deliver, Crow/Brom is torn through alternate realities. Eva claims that the package is hers, but he doesn't believe her. The story moves on to a mystery when suddenly all the tenties disappear from the world. 

Though I did like the plot of the book, I just couldn't get into it. Usually I'm sucked right into the story, but for some reason that I'm still trying to figure out, It just couldn't concentrate on it. Maybe this book wasn't a perfect fit for me, but that doesn't mean you won't like it. It was really interesting, and it's something I won't forget about anytime soon. My favourite characters were probably the Tenties, just because they were so different from anything else in the story, and I also really enjoyed the time jumping part of it. 

Thanks for reading! 
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Body double Green Jay, Eva, 3D printed from plant matter, has not been created to last and yet she still has not disintegrated. This is because robot twins, called the Chemical Conjurers, have managed to keep her alive thus far. But her continuing survival may lie within a Time Locked box. A box which exists in its own time stream and can only be handled by a specific set of actions performed by a trained courier. When the box is delivered to Barlewin’s local crime boss by Brom (who Eva calls the Crow) Brom becomes Eva’s hope for a longer life, but also her constant worry because it is not clear where his allegiances lie.

Green Jay and Crow is a convoluted book of alternate realities and possible futures. Because of this the choreography between time and reality shifts became a bit bewildering and I had problems holding onto the main thread of the plot, as well as adjusting to what was going on in that time frame.

With so much ground to cover there were many tantalising hints of the technology, and sociology of Barlewin, but little exploration of a richly textured world, which gave the sense of missed opportunities.

But Green Jay and Crow delivers on an intriguing narrative with regards to the characters Brom meets in his shifts, the ways in which Brom is able to work out which reality or time he is in, and how recognisable technology is in use in Barlewin’s society.

The narrative on outsiders (the mysterious and ubiquitous Tenties, so called because of their tentacles) and the population of Barlewin’s relationship with them, was also highly relevant.

The examination of friendship, loyalties and compassion for others in need worked well in the sense of enabling the reader to care about the characters and engage with them.
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This is a book I liked the concepts of more than the actual execution. The commentary of what makes an individual an individual (and whether being tied to a group is a good or bad thing) is something this book offers. I really liked the juxtaposition of Green Jay (or Eva), a 3D-printed double with the Tenties, a mysterious alien race. The former does nearly everything she can to become her own person and not simply a stranger's doppelgänger. Meanwhile, the aliens over time have adapted to be more and more like humanity; and even disregarding that, they have a strong group mentality. 

This book does a lot. From the 3D printed Eva who managed to avoid disintegrating thanks to the Chemical Conjurers (two robots). To the Tenties, an alien race. To Mac and Brom, two friends -- the latter of which becomes the carrier of a Time-Locked Box that contains what could make Eva truly free. Only Brom needs to keep the box away from the crime boss, Guerra. And he also needs to somehow find his out of the alternate realities he enters because of the Box. A Time-Locked Box causes the carrier to jump around in time -- less than a second, but significant enough that butterfly effect changes might occur. 

As to my overall thoughts, I thought the concept was really good. But the execution was lacking. Everything was severely average in my opinion. It felt like there was an overall apathetic tone to the writing that was difficult to connect with. The characters were there. They were fine. Not bad, not great. The world was very interesting, as were the different realities of the one city/area we stayed in. And I loved learning about the background of the Tenties, as well as the concept of Eva struggling to come into her own identity. But as a whole, I do think there was just a lot going on. At times it was too much in such a short amount of time. In the end, it made the whole thing feel pretty average.
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Green Jay and Crow 
By DJ Daniels 
Expected 12-11-2018
Abaddon Books, UK

Eva "Green Jay" is a body double. A 3-D print made of disposable plant matter, designed to disintegrate quickly. She should have disintegrated weeks ago, but has stayed alive by hiding with The Chemical Conjurers, twins she refers to as Felix and Oscar who are into making music and chemicals. Eva is also helped by the Tenties, a group of guard like creatures that hover in space.
Eva needs to find the TimeLocked Box, a box locked by time and owned by a local crime lord, Guerra. Eve only trusts Mac "BlueJay" but he cant save her. Only crow can save her, but will he? He works for Guerra making deliveries, after all.
One of the strangest and most original time travel books I'
ve read. Alternative worlds and travelling between different alternative vs. electronic.....real vs. body double.....i really enjoyed this story of diverse characters and worlds.
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Green Jay and Crow is an unusual story that never fully reveals its world and often has the reader wondering where the story is leading.  The story explores time travel, 3-D human copying, tentacled aliens, secret boxes, alternate realities, trust, distrust, robots, conjurers, gangsters, and all kinds of mysterious connections and rips in the universe.  Told through two points of view, the story is one where you are not told everything right away and neither are the two lead characters.  Is a plant-based copy just as human?  What about a benign alien?
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This longish, ambitious novel, has been described as exploring what it means to be human. Actually, in the world this book is presenting, is that even a valid question? Maybe it would be better ask what does it mean to be real and what does it take to achieve this. 

The Crow of the title, whose real name is Kern Bromley, is a human, born and bred in Barlewin with no wish to travel anywhere else. This city as he knows it is a complex mishmash of ultra-modern high technology. Giant screens seem to watch everyone, particularly recording whether an individual participates in the daily ‘brain-training’. Complex multi-talented robots also known as the Chemical Conjurers, Felix and Oscar. We never learn if here are other robots in Barlewin, but these two are very important to this story. Communication devices come in a variety of forms, from traditional smart phones, through plastic strips that attach themselves to your skin, to sentient dragon-flies.  

The Green Jay aka Eva, of the title is a walking, talking, thinking copy, spewed out by a 3-D printer, not a human at all and not supposed to live beyond a few weeks. Created for the mysterious Olwin Duilis, she starts existence with Olwin’s memories but spends most of the book trying to escape these and achieve an identity and personality of her own. She is helped to do this by Mac, who is a kind of genius and in love with her. She calls him Blue Jay. 

The action of the book is set off when Carine, who I think is human, asks Crow to help her with the delivery of a Time Locked Box to Guerra, her boss and Crow’s. If there is a villain in all this, it is maybe Guerra, a wealthy drug lord who has taken over the High Track, which I think is similar to the High Line in NYC. In the process of delivering the box, Crow becomes linked to it and spends much of the book being delivered to alternate realities in 0.63 seconds, making jumps from time frame to time frame, that leave him nauseous and even sees him meeting two of his future selves. 

And then there’s the Tenties, Rose-Q and T-Lilly, among other, many others, who seem to be a variety of octopus. We learn that their real name is the Trocarn and that they migrated to this world because of its high levels of technology. 

The writing here and the characters are very, very interesting, and engrossing but there is so much going on that even a score card can’t always tell you what is happening. I enjoyed reading this and would not want to dissuade anyone from reading it. But at the end I was left with a sense of ‘What was this all about?’  It seems to me that the author has tried to do too much and in the process has created a confusing kaleidoscope that leaves the reader as dizzy as Crow after one of his time jumps. But then what do I know? I’m a reader who believes Neal Stephenson would be greatly improved by the services of a good editor. 3***
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I was pretty excited when I started this book, as it read well and introduced a few new things at a decent pace without getting bogged down in non-SF tropes (e.g., human drama).  The story's set in a small British town about 100 years out, with minimal locations minimally described.  I'm OK with that as long as the story is interesting.  Here we have a post-something world (it wasn't catastrophic, whatever is was) with a small-time thug running a small town of futuristic characters.  There is an old-fashioned marketplace w/ all the features and risks of today's street, a dilapidated water tower that some folks live in, and a hovering walking track as big as a city park.  We also have tentacled aliens and a society of robots.  Great start!

The main character volunteers to deliver a "time locked" package to the thug (the box jumps around between different times several times per second), which doesn't quite work out.  At the same time his friend takes up with a girl who was made from biological material, aliens know-how, and a 3D printer.  Still sounds good, right?  About 50% through the story starts to lag, a lot of pointless wandering ensues, and around 85% I went out of town for a week and never picked this up again.  When I got back I realized I just didn't care how it ended, hence this mixed review.  I do want to see what this author brings out next but for me this one didn't quite fire on all eight cylinders.
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Three points I liked about Green Jay and Crow...

A bold new voice in science fiction I will gladly visit again...

Creative prose that’s as colorful and eye-catching as the book’s cover...

Originality on par with the likes of Philip K. Dick.

I’m glad I had the chance to read this and recommend it gladly.
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