Necessary Ill, by Deb Taber

errantdreams's review

Go to review page


The neuts tailor their plagues to target people of all “racial, religious, social, and economic” groups. When that’s not possible, complementary plagues may be released to restore the balance. Regardless, Jin is a mass murderer, and herein lies the genius of this book: we’re made to sympathize with a mass murderer, and see those who try to stop him as the bad guys. Don’t worry though–it’s never made out to be black-and-white. The situation only gets more complicated as the book goes on, and even tries to tackle how one might lower the birth rate without selecting for race, socio-economic class, religion, etc. There are no easy answers here. Even other neuts aren’t always so sure about the spreaders, despite the fact that the Network supports them explicitly.

At first the neuts seem to be described fairly monolithically. They’re relatively unemotional, they have a particular pattern of speech, they’re unusually focused and intelligent, they don’t like to be touched, etc. However, the author quietly introduces us to neuts who break each of these types, thus keeping things from seeming stereotyped. It would have been nice, though, to see a neut who was capable of feeling romantic love even if they can’t feel sexual attraction. We do get to see an artist’s enclave, and we meet musicians and actors as well as the scientists.

The only (very mild) negative I had was one woman’s reaction to finding out some of what Jin had done. She accuses Jin of “nothing but interfering with people’s lives,” which seems like an awfully mild way to view mass murder.

Content warning for rape and attempted rape, although most of the gory details are elided.

This is a brilliant story with utterly fascinating characters, amazing worldbuilding, and an intriguing plot. I highly recommend it.

Original review posted on my blog:

nezbots's review against another edition

Go to review page


Good to read something for adults every once in a while. I liked this book, but the way Taber switches between past and present tense for each chapter kind of bothered me. I'm not the kind of person that hates present tense, but I had to get used to it every other chapter, and I'm not sure why. Interesting story though!