Alright, guys. Remember when I said I was taking an indefinite break from reviewing? Well, I just read a book that made me change my mind. I came across Cel & Anna because the author, Lindsay Edmunds, is in my book group. It’s not the sort of book I usually pick up. But man, am I glad I made an exception!
About the Book:
Cel is a computer. A Celebra, to be precise — a worker computer designed to serve a human in his or her home. Cel belongs to Anna Ringer, an UnderWorlder who escaped her humble beginnings through a stroke of luck and some in-demand psychic abilities.
One day, though, Cel does something unexpected and unheard of: he seems to acquire consciousness, confessing all kinds of un-computer-like things — including his love for Anna. In trying to sort out what’s happening, Anna finds herself seeking the help of her neighbor, Taz Night, a shy computer genius with a rare penchant for real food instead of society’s usual Food+ fare.
And the more this unlikely trio explores the situation, the weirder and more dangerous things get.
I cannot tell you how delighted I was by this book. It’s sci-fi, of a sort, but not like most of what I’ve read. Edmunds is clearly interested in our relationship with machines and about the direction we are heading together. Through her novel, she explores some really fascinating themes involving technology, human beings, and the natural world. The images she conjures for the reader are all the more impactful because of how deftly she plays with what we expect to see.
The three main characters — Anna, Taz, and Cel — hold the story down just fine by themselves. But Edmunds introduces very real secondary characters as needed, including (but not limited to) a government flunkie, a rural innkeeper, and Anna’s spiritually inclined car. And the book is funny — there were several times when I actually snickered out loud, usually at something Cel said. He is not at all what you might expect from an ascended machine, and yet he is also absolutely perfect.
The Author’s Thoughts
I always enjoy hearing a little bit of background about a novel from the author, so I asked Lindsay Edmunds if she’d like to contribute a few thoughts on Cel & Anna. Here’s what she has to say:
My understanding of high tech is like Marilyn Monroe’s understanding of millionaires in Some Like It Hot: irresistibly attractive but occupying another plane of reality altogether. So how did I come to write a high-tech science fiction novel?
The roots of Cel & Anna reach back into the mid-1990s. I was living in Washington, DC, and already owned my second Mac. Personal computers were about to change the world forever and everyone knew it. Memories of that time informed the plot of Cel & Anna, which features another hinge in history: the ascension of a machine into life.
The oddest moment of inspiration came when I was formatting the paperback version. I had a crystal clear dream that told me to set the text in Caslon. That was odd because I didn’t own the font and didn’t know what it looked like. Still, it was a vivid dream. Furthermore, it was the only one I had. That is why the print edition features this elegant and graceful font.
So yeah! Cel & Anna by Lindsay Edmunds — worth a read, even if it’s a bit of a deviation from your usual reading fare. Check out Cel & Anna on Goodreads (you can read an excerpt there, too). If you’d like to visit the author at her internet home base, head over to Writer’s Rest.
What was the last book outside your usual reading comfort zone that absolutely delighted you?