Clade by Mark Budz
This book lives in the same, refreshing new sub-genre as Syne Mitchell's The Changeling Plague, which (in my opinion) is the natural evolution of cyberpunk. Both of these novels envision a future where biologicals determine who we are and what we become in the way that cyberpunk postulated integrated circuits and weblife, or that the Heinlein-Asimov future postulated rocketships and other hard-engineering feats. Those biologicals might be benign or downright terrifying, designed to heal or murder, but they will change how we live and even who we are.
This is both interesting and important, I think, to where SF is going, because this is where science is headed, as well. Both novels view the world from the perspective of regular people, or even antisocials, which is where "cyberpunk" got its "punk." In fact, the back cover of Clade has a quote from Kevin J. Anderson, who suggests this new genre be called "biopunk." I feel it's important to recognize such new directions, if indeed this is a new movement in the genre.
On the other hand -- perhaps I'm just not longer a young 'un -- I was less interested in the punks of Clade than the DNA hackers of The Changeling Plague. In particular, I got a bit irritated with Budz (as narrator) using curse words; I expect his characters to do so, but it distracted me when the non-character narrator did. I also felt he used a bit too much exposition as dialogue, but it was interesting. I love the (scary) idea of social engineering via pheremone-emitting plants which create the title's "clades," locales which make their inhabitants happy with life and unable to move up or even move laterally in class. Fascinating stuff.
I would be interested to hear what others think of this book, or these two books, or this movement in SF. You can see my response to The Changeling Plague here:
Oh, I forgot to mention one thing: If Varley's cover was bad, ohmigod is Budz's cover a travesty. It shows an aircar flying over a city of steel and glass. Mind you, the world of Clade is full of plants. Bio-engineered plants everywhere, affecting everything, not a sterile world as depicted by the cover.
P.S. -- Lawrence SF Interest Group folks: How about getting together to discuss some of these books I'm recommending? I intend to start posting my reviews of all the books I recommend that I've been reading for the Campbell Award (more about the Award here: http://www.ku.edu/~sfcenter/campbell.htm ).