This weeks’ Danger Gal Friday profile is on Geniveve “Jenny” Casey from Elizabeth Bear’s Hammered, the first installment of the Wordwired trilogy.
As soon as I saw this novel on the shelf in the bookstore I had to read it. I hoped that the cover, the simplicity of which drew me in immediately, wasn’t a tease, that it really did illustrate the story within. It did, and the first person present tense voice yanked me into the story like no other book has in a long time and it fit Jenny Casey perfectly. Straight up first person would have been too close — and Jenny doesn’t let anyone close. Third person, even close third, would have lacked the tension Jenny lives with every day. Really, though, it was this simple line that grabbed me:
And then I curse out loud and go open up the big blue steel door, holding the safetied pistol casually in my meat hand while the metal one turns the knob.
Some reviewers have said that the beginning of Hammered is not so much a cyberpunk homage as a parody, but I reveled in this reference to transhumanism and her “meat” hand. See, Jenny Casey is as SF Reviews.com stated “[A]n awesome augmented Amazonian [who] has retired to a bad part of town.” Much like William Gibson’s Molly Razorshades is an augmented and dangerous female, Casey shouldn’t be underestimated.
Casey is the kind of character who contributes to a new female archetype not only because she’s the ultimate bionic woman. Casey is also of Mohawk descent, nearing 50, and before retiring had been a helicopter pilot. That’s kind of an anti-nexus of female stereotypes, and as Moira Russell at the Greenman Review points out, unlike a Gibson Girl she “isn’t a glamorously outfitted beautiful siren of the William Gibson variety.” It was a crash landing that caused Casey’s injuries and the need to fit her with prosthetic limbs and other implants (so much cooler than another bionic person I can think of…)
Enter Gabe Castaign, the man who pulled her from the wreckage of her helicopter, a man Casey describes as one who would “crawl through a fire for a girl he’s never met.” An old lover, it was Gabe’s wife and Casey’s internal scars that kept them apart for 20 years. Casey’s external scars never phased Gabe. On top of the POV switching, Bear inserts quite a bit of French Canadian patois into this story, mostly from Gabe. This was an aspect I very much enjoyed, though I’m sure others may have found it distracting. The whole story worked for me — the atypical heroine, the unusual POV, the finally requited love story — oh yes, and also the “love in an orbital elevator” (it sounds so much catchier than “love on a beanstalk“) scene, which works better than anything in Moonraker, finally bringing these two characters together, in zero-G no less.
I’ve left a lot of the story out of this profile, mostly because it’s a lot of story, but also because I just wanted to highlight Jenny and the love of her life, Gabe. They didn’t meet until after her accident, and yet Gabe thinks she’s the sexiest woman on the planet. His attraction to her has very little to do with her beauty or lack of it. Their story is told in an great novel set somewhere between hard and soft science fiction, a rare find.
Plus, Gabe knows a whole lot of French I haven’t heard since that exchange student in high school told me words we would never learn in class.
For more on Jenny Casey:
Out of the Blogosphere Interview with Elizabeth Bear
Metro Kitty’s Supersonic Ladies on a Leash (Casey is discussed in the comments)