Review | Bear Head – Adrian Tchaikovsky

Review | Bear Head – Adrian Tchaikovsky

Jimmy smuggles data in his head. At the moment there’s a bear in there.. and it’s talking to him. Bear Head is a fast-paced sci-fi adventure that’s mostly fun and at times hard hitting.

Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky | Publisher: Head of Zeus | Year: 2021 | Science Fiction | Hardback

Adrian Tchaikovsky returns to the universe of his 2017 book ‘Dogs of War’ with his new science fiction novel, ‘Bear Head’.

Set between Mars and Earth we are introduced to Jimmy, a human whose body has been modified to make him the closest thing to a Martian there can be. He’s also a drug addicted loser.

Working alongside fellow modified humans and non-human Bioforms, Jimmy is working towards the colonisation of the red planet. His modifications allow him to survive in low gravity and filter enough dust to be able to breathe the poor air. Perfect for the many shitty repair jobs that need doing.

He signed up for this, he found a sense of purpose. But there’s nothing to do on Mars, so Jimmy spends all of his scrip on Stringer, a black market drug that makes his cruddy living just about bearable.

But when the scrip runs out and the loans are called in Jimmy turns to Sugar, a smuggler who pays good money to store other peoples data in a willing host’s headspace.

No biggie, usually. Except Jimmy’s data inexplicably starts talking to him, and she won’t shut up. Not only that, Jimmy soon discovers that his unwanted ‘guest’ is a recently murdered Bioform bear called Honey. And she can take control of Jimmy’s body, which is really messing with his drug use.

From the Arthur C. Clarke award winning author, Adrian Tchaikovsky, comes ‘Bear Head’, a fast-paced sequel to his 2017 science fiction novel, ‘Dogs of War’.

It isn’t essential to have read the first book in the series, indeed I haven’t. Though I do feel that to do so would provide some much needed context regarding some of the unique characters that inhabit this vibrant, futuristic world.

Each chapter of ‘Bear Head’ contributes to the story from the varying perspectives of different characters. And although Jimmy is often at the centre of things, it’s really only because of the unfortunate situation he finds himself in.

The data in his head is an uploaded conscience from a now deceased Bioform bear named Honey. A Bioform being an animal gifted human-like cognisance through genetic engineering, primarily for the use of their natural attributes. Dogs make good soldiers, bears have immense strength and durability. They make good workers.

My initial reticence regarding Jimmy as a personality I’m just not going to enjoy, quickly faded as his endearing qualities became evident. Ultimately he’s an average guy with little understanding of the greater implications of the situation he’s in.

It’s his simplistic outlook that works so well when juxtaposed against the gentle, intelligent nature of Honey, the voice in his head. The two form an odd-couple double-act. It’s often slapstick as they bicker and struggle with vastly different agendas.

Jimmy wants his life back, Honey is reconciling her own death whilst fighting the bigger battle. An egotistical politician on Earth called Warner S. Thomson. So consumed by his own greatness he’ll step on anyone in his way.

Tchaikovsky builds a fascinating vision of the future which is relatable in how normal it is. Jimmy may live on Mars, but people still work, people still struggle to get by. And there’s always someone willing to exploit everyone else to get ahead.

The author does a fantastic job of making each character richly interesting and uniquely different, their individual paths ultimately coalescing into a frenzied finale with losses on all sides.

And as much as this is a story about the fragility of humanity and freedom of choice, it’s equally about the dangers of technology and it’s misuse to progress those willing to manipulate it.

For every laugh out loud moment there’s a deeply dark sequence. The journey of Warner S. Thomson’s long suffering assistant, outside of all the other happenings, is fascinating in itself.

Ultimately ‘Bear Head’ is a satisfying and gratifying read. A real page turner with just the right balance of serious and silly.

‘Bear Head’ is published in the UK by Head of Zeus and is available to buy on December 7th.

Four out of Five

Satisfying and gratifying, futuristic but still relatable on a human level… or Bioform level. Whichever applies. – 4/5

Will Harrison

About the author | Will Harrison

Founder of The Unheard Nerd. A husband and father of two girls, Will is a fan of Nerdcore Hip-Hop, a comics fiend, a podcast host and champion of independent nerd culture. | Follow will on twitter: @TheUnheardNerd