Riebeckite: A Review

This review is part of my judging effort for SPSFC2. For a little intro to the whole thing and an explanation of my judging style, see this practice review.


Next on the #SPSFC roster, still working my way down from highest word-count to lowest, we have Riebeckite, a near-future story of one woman’s race to expose a sinister new threat to humanity, Bruised Moon Sequence Book 1, by O. R. Lea. What a mouthful!

“In 2027, the moon was struck by an asteroid called Riebecki. If it had hit the earth, it could have killed everyone. A piece of it the size of a football field broke off and landed in east Africa.”

The blue dust that Riebecki was formed of got called riebeckite. Not to be confused with actual riebeckite, a rock with perfect cleavage (don’t blame me, that’s an actual geology thing), that already exists and why use such an obscure and distinctive mineral name for this story? Seriously. Oh, and Riebecki also shouldn’t be confused with the gecko, haemodracon riebecki. Which is a fucking great taxonomic name even if the gecko doesn’t have boobies (probably). But my point remains, why use this particular name? I guess Lea had their reasons. Still, I don’t get it.

(Edpool’s note: There was actually a great reason for the name, check the comments for more! As always, my reviews prove so shallow people say “oh, it can’t be that shallow” and dive in. – Ed)

So, the asteroid is made of blue dust, the titular riebeckite (again, not to be confused with the riebeckite with perfect cleavage, I am a literal twelve-year-old). “A lot of the dust got kicked up and the moon’s gravity shaped it into a ring. But the earth’s gravity pulls some of the dust down towards us, which is why there is a trail.”

And the riebeckite dust in the moon’s new ring, and the trail leading down to Earth, is dangerous. Not only does it clump up and form tumour-analogous growths in living things that breathe it or swallow it, but … well, that’s where it gets a bit more complicated. And interesting.

But it’s not just the riebeckite and its properties at play here, although I really enjoyed the info-dumps and research and discussions that went on throughout. The story is set against a really interesting backdrop of a near-future geopolitical conflict between Iranians and Azerbaijanis that made it even more fun to read, even though it was all pretty unfamiliar to me.

When a riebeckite “colony” has a prime particle in it, it changes from harmless blue to super-dangerous black, basically turning the lump of riebeckite into a mass of little tiny chomping mouths that can eat just about anything. And when they clump up and absorb an animal just right, they can take on the behavioural patterns of the animal. And that’s when they get really dangerous.

I really enjoyed this story, like I said, as much for the study of the alien microbes and their properties as for the action, and the political and cultural intrigue, and the look at the unpleasant near-future of the world. There could have been more of those elements and less of the terrorist and espionage and douchey he-scientists, although I guess they’re all part of the rich tapestry or something. It was fine. You’ve gotta have action, although there really could have been more riebeckite action, you know?

And oh! The random side-villainy of the US showing up, as the mostly-uninvolved but definitely evil foreign power, was just perfect. Nicely understated and menacing as a semi-third-act big bad. And of course they were doing all the bad shit there were laws against and the scientists hadn’t been informed of, and making flesh-eating riebeckite bullets, because of course they were. Without spoiling too much, I will say that it was a refreshing take on the alien invasion / Day of the Triffids eco-invasion, and human infighting tropes. While I can’t really comment on the veracity of the Iranian / Azerbaijani friction, I appreciated seeing a new viewpoint in a world-spanning series of events. I hope it was legit but obviously I’m a poor judge.

The story ended on a fascinating epilogue – what was going on there? Shark? Whale? Something else? I’m definitely keen to know more.

Sex-o-meter

There was nothing to see here, for better or worse. A little bit of vague relationship-and-attraction tension, but nobody exactly gets it on. Too busy doing science and counter-terrorism. I’m giving this one a two-inch blue riebeckite tiddler out of a possible twenty-five-foot black riebeckite snake.

Gore-o-meter

These things turn animals into masses of tiny little Langolier-esque shredder nasties, so there is potential for a whole lot of gore here, but … ehh, we didn’t exactly get much. What we got was quality, make no mistake, and there was some good weaving of massive tissue damage and near-future medicine, but a lot of it was left to the imagination. Luckily, I have a gross imagination. Two and a half flesh-gobbets out of a possible five.

WTF-o-meter

Some WTF. The world is weird. The riebeckite is weird. I want to know more about the asteroid and what’s going on, where it’s all heading, where it all started. It’s intriguing, but is it WTF? Ah, the eternal question. I’m giving this one an Eldrad out of a possible Krynoid. If you know, you know.

My Final Verdict

In the end I found I wasn’t really sure what to do with this story, and what to make of it. I love the premise and the alien spores, and the human setting – all of it was very original. It had a cool concept and oh boy, was I ever mad for the protagonist’s sake for all the absolute assholery she had to deal with. And I never really warmed to her friend. She was a jerk. Sorry. Maybe what bothers me most is the potential in the premise that wasn’t met. Either way, I’m giving Riebeckite a solid three stars on the Amazon / Goodreads scale. Good stuff!

About Hatboy

I’m not often driven to introspection or reflection, but the question does come up sometimes. The big question. So big, there’s just no containing it within the puny boundaries of a single set of punctuationary bookends. Who are these mysterious and unsung heroes of obscurity and shadow? What is their origin story? Do they have a prequel trilogy? What are their secret identities? What are their public identities, for that matter? What are their powers? Their abilities? Their haunted pasts and troubled futures? Their modus operandi? Where do they live anyway, and when? What do they do for a living? Do they really have these fantastical adventures, or is it a dazzlingly intellectual and overwrought metaphor? Or is it perhaps a smug and post-modern sort of metaphor? Is it a plain stupid metaphor, hedged around with thick wads of plausible deniability, a soap bubble of illusory plot dependent upon readers who don’t dare question it for fear of looking foolish? A flight of fancy, having dozed off in front of the television during an episode of something suitably spaceship-oriented? Do they have a quest, a handler, a mission statement, a department-level development objective in five stages? I am Hatboy. https://hatboy.blog/2013/12/17/metalude-who-are-creepy-and-hatboy/
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2 Responses to Riebeckite: A Review

  1. whistleysour says:

    For anyone who happens to be curious about that title, I’m an asbestos analyst in real-life. Riebeckite, in its fibrous form, is crocidolite, or blue asbestos. And the seminal idea for the riebeckite creatures was a silly little moment of “what if asbestos had teeth”. 🙂

    Although to be fair, the book was written under the working title “Colony”, but then a few guys put out books with that same title in the same year, so I needed to use something I was sure wouldn’t be taken be someone else. In retrospect, probably not my smartest decision, not least of all because of the pronounciation nightmares it’s caused.

    • Hatboy says:

      That’s so cool! I was scratching my head wondering if there was a connection to the known mineral, but didn’t get as far as asbestos. As should be quite obvious, I didn’t get past the cleavage joke.

      I think it was an excellent choice given that – makes you think, and … yeah, asbestos is a nasty bitch. I can only imagine you’ve seen some shit, as an analyst. My main experience with it was “we used to make corrugated fences out of it when I was a kid, and then suddenly everyone was saying it was super dangerous.”

      My great-uncle-in-law was a victim, due to his line of work. He was very fortunate, ultimately. He lived to a ripe old age, a pay-out from the company that killed him made sure he could make it rain for the last few years of his life, and he smoked like a chimney so it was gonna be something.

      Thanks for commenting and thanks for the book!

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