Baen, 1997, 405 pages, C$8.99 mmpb, ISBN 0-671-87874-3
There is something comfortingly pleasant about reading a novel by a professional SF writer. The most reliable of them know enough about satisfying the readers that even the most hackneyed premise can be brought to life with mildly interesting characters and sustained plotting.
There’s not much that’s innovative about James P. Hogan’s Bug Park. In fact, you might even call it retrograde: After reading so much about nanotechnology, going “back” to insect-sized micro-technology doesn’t seem to be all that exciting.
And yet… micro-technology is easier to conceptualize that nanotech. You can at least imagine some direct interaction between humans and machinery at those scales. The visual kick in seeing micro-machines meddling around with insects is also suitably cinematic, enough to excite even mildly jaded readers.
Mix the promise of such technology with teenage protagonists and you have the making of a rather interesting SF novel for teen audiences. Even though obviously aimed at teens, Bug Park was published by Baen exactly as one of their more mainstream novel. Still, at the heart of the book lies a teen’s novel.
It features kids as protagonists, rich bored teenagers with advanced skills in micro-robotics, which is probably linked to their parent’s business interest in such things. But no matter; When Kevin and Taki get to work on something, those teen hackers can do anything. While their interest in micro-robotics is initially driven towards a “Bug Park”, their capabilities will become handy when they discover a plot afoot to kill Kevin’ father and take over his company.
As you might expect, most of Bug Park is a series of adventures in which our teenage protagonists get to use cutting-edge big-sized machines in order to foil evil plans. It works well, as a matter of fact: Thanks to Hogan’s lean prose, there aren’t any problem sin picturing the micro antics, from fancy spying to intricate sabotage… without forgetting epic half-inch fights. Hogan manages to transform backyards into battlegrounds! It doesn’t take much to imagine this as a film, somewhere between SPY KIDS, JURASSIC PARK and HONEY I SHRUNK THE KIDS. Except with better special effect.
Hogan’s science is reasonably exact, though readers who know about his penchant for weird science will smile knowingly at his short diatribe against the “establishment science’s” theory of relativity. Fortunately, he stops there and leaves his usual pseudo-scientific rants for other novels.
There isn’t much that’s spectacular in Bug Park, but even then the book works adequately well for readers of all ages. Teen might like it a bit more given the lead characters, but the rest is a serviceable fun SF adventure. Give it a try if you want to; it’s not essential, but it passes the time.