Plague Birds by Jason Sanford

Thousands and thousands of years in the future… humankind has already tried to colonize space and has been defeated… living in tribal hamlets protected by all-seeing AI units, people have changed, physically. Most are made up of a genetic hybrid of animals and humans… fur, whiskers, enhanced senses… and instinct. The draw of the hunt… the blood in the waters. It is the job of the town’s AI to sooth the conflicts in town and keep the people calm. An almost parental role.

Traveling across the countryside are the plague birds who serve as type of futuristic law enforcement. Their power is contained in the AI encompassed in their blood. Red Day is one of the sentient AI who is passed on to another vessel when the host’s body is weakened. They have immense power to fight other being who would rip apart minds and probe to manipulate memories. A cut of the host’s wrist released Red Day into the world and out to defeat an enemy.

Sanford’s worldbuilding has to be coherent or the reader will flail, at least this reader. There are sentient beings that may come in different packages, but I each one is unique and held my interest. It was the plot that tripped me up, and I’ll speak more to that later. As soon as I got a handle on the roles and hierarchy in Sanford’s world, things start to move forward.

The former Plague Bird was on the hunt of a couple beings who are disrupting the several parts of the larger world. And when the blood AI is transferred to a new host, the protagonist named Crista, the hunt is on to find out why and how and on whose orders… This is where the book went off the rails a bit for me. Part of it was the constant accusations of mind-truth distortion. I couldn’t make out who was controlling whom. As each being sends out their power to overtake the other’s minds, to stop their thoughts or influence them.

Plague Birds contains some of the most thought-provoking speculation I have encountered. The cool, the far out, and a little of the wtf?!?!?! And even though it slowed a bit at times and a couple plot points didn’t work for me, I was very entertained in Sanford’s world.

4 out of 5 stars

Thank you to Apex Books, and the author for an advanced copy for review.

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