|Cover art||John Zeleznik|
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Changeling is a Shadowrun novel by Christopher Kubasik.
- THE MAGIC IS BACK
By 2053, the return of magic to the world has filled the streets of Chicago with beings and creatures from mythology. For those in the politically dominant mega-corporations, the underworld, and everywhere in between, it is a time of chaos and wonder, and opportunities ripe for the taking.
For fifteen-year-old Peter Clarris, transformed by his Awakened genes from a human to a troll, the forces of magic are a curse to be combated with science. Torn from the comfortable biotech fast-track of his childhood, he becomes an outcast, shunned by friends and strangers alike. Now, living among the outcasts--the underclass of orks and trolls, the criminal societies of gangsters and shadowrunners--he grows up, pursuing the elusive means of controlling his own genes, and ultimately his own destiny....
Warning: Spoiler Information Below
In the first place, pay no attention to the picture on the cover. Just close your eyes until it's safely folded back out of sight. In fact, if you're not squeamish about such things, just rip the obscene thing off and throw it away.
The story features the life of an exceptional troll, from his Goblinization in Chicago just before the Night of Rage (7 Feb 2039) through his rise in the ranks of organized crime, his lifelong quest to "cure" his metahuman condition, and his ultimate acceptance of his Awakened nature. The author does a superb job of handling the trauma of goblinization, its aftereffects, and the gradual mental and emotional maturation of the title character.
Detailed plot summaryEdit
- Part 1
September 2039. Peter Clarris is fifteen years old, and has just goblinized into a troll. As a human child, Peter was on the sunny side of brilliant (184 IQ), and though his transformation slows him down somewhat, he remains an exceptional troll. As Peter recovers from his Goblinization, the world around him is torn by racial violence: the Night of Rage, the Sears Tower bombing and the second Chicago fire. Peter's father doesn't know how to relate to his son, and treats his metahuman condition as a kind of disability. Peter runs away from home, determined to "cure" himself of his metahumanity, thereby proving his worth to his father.
Life on the streets is an adjustment for Peter. He has no friends and no options until he meets a burned-out razorguy named Fast Eddy. Fast Eddy gives Peter the name "Profezzur" because of the young troll's obsession with biology. The two partners become small-time criminals, eventually breaking into the big time by joining the Itami gang, a rising force in Chicago's underworld of organized crime.
All along, Peter educates himself in biology and genetics, driving himself first to recover the knowledge and intelligence he lost to goblinization, then to expand upon it. His position in the Itami gang brings him money and influence, which he uses to acquire proprietary data from universities, research institutes, and genetics corporations. It takes him thirteen years to develop a theoretical process for reversing his goblinization.
- Part 2
December 2052. Despite being immersed in a world of violence and crime, Peter has managed to retain a peculiar brand of ethics and morality. When directed to kill an innocent businesswoman, Cell Works CEO Kahtryn Amij, he finds that he is reluctant—because she is a "civillian", outside the lethal underworld society to which he, his colleagues, and their enemies belong.
Kathryn arranged the extraction of a Cell Works employee, geneticist William Clarris (Peter's father). She hopes that Clarris will be able to prevent her unborn child from being born Metahuman—not because she is racist, but because she doesn't want her son to suffer from racism. By killing Kathryn and recovering Dr Clarris, Itami means to gain control of Cell Works. Peter breaks from the Itami gang and protects Kathryn in the hope of finding his father and validating his research.
From a fixer in the Noose named Zero-One-Zero, Peter and Kathryn obtain new identities, a safe-house, and the assistance of a pair of shadowrunners, Liaison (a decker) and Breena (a mage). Reasoning that his father will be working with nanotechnology, Peter begins investigating corporations in that area. He follows a trail from Geneering in France to ABTech in Chicago, and learns that ABTech is conducting experiments on unborn children.
Impersonating a Geneering inspector, Peter goes to ABTech on the pretense of checking on their progress and security. When the Itami gang makes their attempt to extract Dr Clarris, Peter is able to escape with his father in the confusion.
Kathryn returns to Cell Works with Dr Clarris and enough leverage to retain control of the company in spite of Itami's interest. Peter finally accepts his metahumanity. He is a troll, and no longer wants to be anything else.
In order of appearance:
- Peter Clarris ("Da'Profezzur", Jordan Winston): troll bodyguard
- Dr William Clarris: genetics researcher, Peter's father
- Thomas*: Snake Shaman, physical therapist
- Dr Landsgate: professor, later ghoul living in Shattergraves
- Fast Eddy: burned out street samurai
- Billy Shaw: crime boss for Itami's gang, Peter's employer
- Jenkins*: security guard, inflexible and stupid
- O'Malley*: Chicago mob boss, construction industry racket
- Max: bag runner, member of Itami's gang
- Garner: executive at Cell Works
- Itami: Chicago crime lord, possibly Yakuza
- Arinori Itami: Itami's son
- Yoake Itami*: Itami's son
- Kathryn Amij (Sarah Brandise): CEO of Cell Works, a Chicago-based genetics company
- Zero-One-Zero, "Zoze": fixer, overweight black human, obsessive-compulsive
- Bub: ork, muscle for Itami's gang
- Liaison: decker, 18-year-old human girl
- Changes: dwarf front-man for Zero-One-Zero
- Breena: mage, Liaison's girlfriend
- Dr Thomas Waxman: Geneering executive impersonated by Peter
- Dr Tumboldt: director of ABTech enterprises
- Serveno: Cell Works executive
* this character dies in the course of the novel.
- Chicago, 2039 (Night of Rage)
- Chicago, 2052
- Hyde Park
- The Noose
- The Shattergraves
- Westside (The Crew, ABTech)
- Byrne Housing Project
- Northside (Crusader Security)
Notes and analysisEdit
Peter's goblinization was traumatic and slow, taking over a month. The doctor refers to the change as ingetisization, and Peter's metatype (troll) as homo sapiens ingentis. By extension, the process of goblinizing into an ork (homo sapiens robustus) would be robustusization.
The doctors classify the metahuman condition as Unexplained Genetic Expression (UGE). The sudden transformation of an apparently normal human into an ork or troll is called "Spontaneous UGE", or "goblinization". Elves and dwarves were born to human parents beginning in 2011 but orks and trolls did not appear until Goblinization Day, 30 April 2021, when 10% of the world's population metamorphosed into orks and trolls (SR3, p. 28).
Page 10: "Spontaneous UG-Expressions haven't been common since 2021."
The Night of Rage occurred on 7 February 2039, while Peter is recovering from his metamorphosis in the hospital. It sparks race-riots across the globe. This doesn't quite mesh with the date given at the beginning of the book (September 2039).
Widespread use of the Matrix and sophisticated user-friendly programming, speech recognition software, etcetera has led to a decline in literacy. Page 32: "Kids made fun of him in elementary school because his father wanted him to be literate, not just functionally literate, or 'iconerate,' the new term for those who went through life using only symbols and key words for written communication." This phenomenon is actually consistent with SR3 rules, by which the reading skills of beginning characters are at half the rating of the language skill (SR3, p. 91).
Page 33: "Years ago, when the corps took over primary support of the public school system, all the reading programs -- well, the entire curriculum -- was changed to a more 'vocational' approach. To get a return on their money, the corps decided they wanted people to learn only as much as they needed to carry out a job."
Page 133-134: Peter finds three models in Katherine Amij's home, miniatures of a drawing room, a cathedral, and an old English kitchen. These are probably Thorne Miniature Rooms, currently on display at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Page 176: Peter mentions that it's 2053, which conflicts with the date at given earlier (December 2052). Only a few days have passed, without any mention of the New Year.
Page 187: "Most of the genetic-manipulation work dried up after the fiasco in London." The fiasco in question involoved the Adams-Hoffman Corporation conducting malign genetic manipulation experiments on humans and metahumans in the London sprawl in 2038, with the full knowledge and cooperation of the British government. Called "Project 42-20", it precipitated riots and plague and led to the creation of the Lambeth Containment Zone. (London Sourcebook, p. 20, 109-110). Popular reaction against the atrocity apparently makes any research into nanotechnology and genetic engineering a potential public-relations time-bomb.
The famous Georges Seurat pointilist painting, "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" (painted in 1884-86), was liberated from the Chicago Art Institute and is currently in the Noose, hanging in an apartment belonging to a pair of female shadowrunners: Liaison (a decker), and Breena (a mage). Liaison calls it "Sunday Afternoon at the Grand Jetty," and is fond of it because it reminds her of early computer graphics.
p. 248: "A slag I knew, he got it from a friend, who stole it from an accountant, who stole it from a partner, who grabbed it out of the Institute when they shut it down after the IBM Tower collapsed."
Movie fans may remember seeing this painting in Ferris Bueller's Day Off; art lovers who have the opportunity should go see the original at the Institute. I have—it's impressive. I wonder if Liaison and Breena realize they've got a multimillion dollar wall decoration? I wonder if it survived the Containment Zone? The painting may have made its way into the possession of media baron Dan Truman by the events of Burning Bright (Tom Dowd, 1994).
Between the Seurat painting and the Thorne Miniatures, I'd hazard a guess that Chris Kubasik visitied the Art Institute either while he was writing the book or shortly before.
In 2053, the world's leading bioresearch nanotechnology developer is Geneering in France (page 196). Geneering is supplying prototypes to ABTech Enterprises in Chicago (page 216, 247). ABTech is a subsidiary of Biogene Technologies in Seattle (page 271). Biogene ended up on the wrong side of a confrontation with Aztechnology in 2050 (the shadowrun adventure DNA/DOA) and was subsequently acquired by Yamatetsu. Yamatetsu transferred the bulk of Biogene's assets to ABTech to protect them.
Page 295: Breena casts a Physical Mask spell on Peter, but appears to take much more than the Medium drain the spell normally imposes. Rule of Ones on the drain resistance test, maybe.
Because of the main character's obsession with "curing" his own metahuman condition, the book goes into some detail on the biology of metahumanity. I don't know enough about genetics to comment on the plausibility of the science involved, but this was the upshot:
Genotype is the genetic potential of an individual, the basic blueprints of a person. Phenotype is the potential of the person's genotype in combination with the environment. The same set of genes (genotype) would produce remarkably different people (phenotypes) under different environmental circumstances—good diet and exercise versus a life of malnutrition and privation, for example. Following the Awakening, the introduction of Magic into the environment led to the possibility of Metahuman phenotypes (in the absence of magic prior to the awakening, the same genotype would have produced a base human phenotype).
Pleiotropic genes affect multiple traits. The presence of a single pleiotropic "metatrigger" gene could affect multiple genetic changes that separate human from metahuman. Another type of gene is an operator gene, which activates the more structural gene to which it is attached. Operator genes can be blocked by repressor proteins which attach to the operator gene and prevent the DNA from transcribing to RNA. The repressor itself can be bound by other chemicals, preventing if from disabling the operator gene.
Peter Clarris' theory is that the pleiotropic trigger for metahumanity is attached to an operator gene that responds to the presence of magic in the environment. In the absence of magic, the operator is repressed. The presence of magic neutralizes the repressor proteins, allowing the operator gene to enable the metatrigger and voila! Metahuman.
In the course of thirteen years of research involving numerous thefts of proprietary or classified data from various megacorps and universities, Peter develops a theoretical process for suppression of the operator gene, as if magic were not in the environment. The process relies on nanotechnology and would be HIDEOUSLY expensive.
After accepting his own metahumanity, Peter destroys his research.
Interesting to note that Renraku exec veep Hohiro Sato claimed he could induce goblinization with a serum (Find Your Own Truth). Yet according to Peter Clarris' research, goblinization can be reversed only through a sophisticated nanotechnological process.
Da'Profezzur (Peter Clarris) is a "Prime Runner" card in Shadowrun: the Trading Card Game.
- German: Der Wechselbalg
- French: Métamorphose
- Hungarian: Átváltozva
- Mason's: 4 out of 5. This is one of the better Shadowrun novels. I give it a 4 on the 5-point Shadowrun Novel Scale.
- Doug's: B (out of A, B, C, D scale) I truly enjoyed this book. Trolls are seriously underused in the Shadowrun series, used almost exclusively as dumb gunners. And while they certainly are very strong and not too bright, surely they can do more than carry a big gun and hit hard. And here we see that indeed they can. Kubasik wrote from the trolls perspective, if still in third-person. While the character plays a heavy to make a living, we see what he does when he's not projecting the persona of a dumb brute.
- Goodreads: 3.37 (as of June 2013)
- Based partially on Mason's review