Book review: Defining Diana by Hayden Trenholm

Defining Diana0003Defining Diana by Ottawa author Hayden Trenholm, published by Bundoran Press, is a near-future police procedural, a combination of mystery and science fiction that I personally find irresistible if it’s done well–and Defining Diana is definitely done well.

I’ll let the back cover copy handle the set-up:

Found naked and alone in a locked room, the beautiful woman was in perfect health–except she was dead…

It’s 2043 and much has changed: nuclear war, biotechnology and all-powerful corporations have transformed the world…

Now science is taking DNA manipulation to new, unrestricted levels.

Superintendent Frank Steele is an old-fashioned cop. He commands a small, elite police unit that is handed all the biazarre and baffling cases no one else can solve. He knows the money, murders, missing persons and gruesome body shops are all connected…

He knows it starts with the girl…

It does, indeed, start with the girl (name of Diana, hence the title), but it takes us through a fascinating panoply of intriguing (and disturbing) possibilities. There’s a thriving sub-culture of Borg, for example, humans who have been modified, not genetically, but through mechanical and electronic implants. There’s plenty of genetic manipulation going on, too, of course. There are crooked politicians and nefarious corporate thugs and plenty of greed to go around, and caught up in it are the aforementioned Frank Steele, the old cop who started on the force back in the good old days of, well, now, and his compatriots: David Ross, highly unstable and violence-prone, and with some really nasty personal habits; Willa O’Reilly, for whom Steele has a definite thing but who has her own issues related to her ex-husband (who turns out to have not been quite what she thought, in a number of ways); Cat Podnarski, the forensics expert with her own unfortunate man problems; Wannamaker the possibly corrupt Borg cop…they’re all memorable characters, and the interplay among them as they clamber, rather like insects in a spider’s web, through the complex strands of Trenholm’s plot, is what makes Defining Diana work so well. It’s all set in a much-changed but still recognizable Calgary (where Trenholm lived for many years).

If you like near-future science fiction of the dark and gritty kind, or present-day police procedurals, or (as I do), both, you’ll enjoy Defining Diana…and you’ll look forward to the sequel, which I understand is in progress.

I also enjoyed Defining Diana because its notions of what the ability to physically modify the human body and even program the human brain might mean for future society echo some of the themes in my own Marseguro and Terra Insegura.

Oh, and Defining Diana is, like Marseguro, a finalist for the Aurora Award for Best Long-Form Work in English this year. Naturally I’d prefer that Marseguro wins…but Defining Diana would also be a worthy recipient.

In case I haven’t mentioned it recently: vote here.

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