The first book in the SF trilogy set in the year 2062.
Publication year: 2005
Page count: 324 + a preview of Scardown
Publisher: Bantam Spectra
Genevieve, Jenny, Casey is a veteran of the Canadian Army. Twenty-five years ago she was in a helicopter accident which should have killed her. Instead, the army replaced her left arm with a metal arm, replaced her left eye with a targeting scope, and put first generation cybernetics into her. She still has flashbacks and nightmares about the accident.
Now, she lives in Hartford, runs a small mechanics shop, and goes by the name Maker. The local gangster boss, Razorface, is a good friend and when he brings in one of his boys who has taken tainted drugs, Jenny realizes that the drugs come from the Canadian Army and shouldn’t be on the streets in the first place. She starts to look into who had brought the drug to US and why. Also, her implants are starting to break down. She’s in constant pain and her neurologist is saying that she might have only five years left to live. However, what she finds out is that her former boss, Valens, wants her back, doing something that’s more dangerous than anything else she’s ever done. It might have something to do with a spaceship that the Canadians found on Mars ten years ago.
The plot follows a lot of other people and a bit fragmentary at first. Doctor Elspeth Dunsany has just been released from jail where she has been for the past 16 years because of her work with artificial intelligences. One of the AIs has become independent and is roaming the net, looking for information.
The AI has been modeled after the physicist Richard Feynman. Elspeth is also pressured into working for Valens on a top-secret project.
A 12-year old kid is playing a virtual reality game in the hopes of getting the grand prize: a full paid scholarship. The object of the game is to become a pilot.
Casey’s other friend is a cop who whose girlfriend has just been murdered and he’s looking into it even though it might cost him his badge.
Unfortunately, many of the characters start as clichés, especially the gangster boss who just wants what’s best for the people in his neighborhood. However, most of them evolve into more than a bag of clichés and become characters who the reader might care about. Unfortunately, the cop and the gangster boss never engaged me but apparently other readers liked them. However, for me Jenny and Elspeth are the most interesting characters.
Jenny is almost fifty and she feels that she has no business still being alive. People she cares about are dead and she isn’t really interested in living anymore. She thinks of herself as a cripple and when her old boss gives her a chance to upgrade the failing implants, she doesn’t want to do that. She’s trying to help Razorface and his boys, and is mostly interested in finding dirt about her former boss so that he can be brought to justice.
Elspeth is a scientist who is more interested in science than morals, mostly. She made several AIs based on famous scientists (one of the others was Nikola Tesla) but she was then a bit dismayed when she found out that one of them has grown to independence. She had a lot of time to think about in jail and now she’s working for the same people again.
The writing style is a bit choppy. The book doesn’t have chapters, just POV changes which are prefaced by time and date. Each POV is usually just a couple of pages long, resulting in really short scenes and then going to the next one. Jenny’s POV is in first person, present tense and the rest are in third person, past tense which didn’t really work for me because they drew too much attention to the tense and first/third person shifts and made the complex plot seem a little bit more convoluted.
Still, the pace is quick and we soon find out that the VR game is something more and that everyone is connected to each other. I liked figuring out the SF references and influences. The world feels very similar to BladeRunner and Casey lives in Sigourney Street and Canada has Clarke Station in orbit.
The world seems to be a dystopia. The weather patterns have changed and so the world has changed, too. US is no longer a world power but more isolationist. Canada has been more or less taken over by a big corporation which runs the country. Canada is in a space race with the Chinese who are presented as a threat.
Unfortunately, I’m not a fan of the cyperpunk style: a setting were everything is miserable and you’re going to die young, anyway. I was actually more interested in the side plot of the spaceship than the scheming. It seems like the sequel will have far more space travel.