Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Mirrored Heavens - David J Williams

2110. The long years of the Second Cold War are coming to a close, and the super powers of the US and the Eurasian Bloc are starting to develop a tentative detente. However, all is not entirely peaceful. With much of the world's economy now depending on space, the critical equator launch stations are now the focus for local resistance groups in South America and Africa, funded by a shady and nefarious group called Autumn Rain, whose location and goals are a mystery. The US military hierarchy is divided against itself, with factions struggling for control of the forces and access to the Throne. Any wrong move could destabilise the uneasy peace and throw the world back into open war...

Jason Marlowe is a mech, a power-suited, tooled-up infiltrator sent on dangerous missions to the heart of enemy territories. Claire Haskell is a razor, a hacker with wires in her head who can break through the toughest of firewalls - necessary now that the Web is no longer World Wide, and has been harshly fenced off into Zones. She thinks that she and Marlowe have a history together, but neither of them can trust their memories. Also in the mix are the Operative, another infiltrator on his way to the far side of the moon, who is starting to question the motives of his superiors; and Spencer, an industrial spy from the Neutral Territories of Europe whose cosy data-theft job is suddenly compromised by a man on the run; between them they begin to uncover a massive conspiracy that threatens the whole world.

The Mirrored Heavens is a solid piece of cyberpunk, with plenty of fast and brutal action sequences to complement the hacking and the intrigue. Williams has chosen to use the present tense throughout, which keeps up the feeling of immediacy, and overall the writing is clean and competent. A few bits of dialogue come across as stilted (particularly from the Operative, strangely) but really, that's not what you're reading it for, is it? While there is nothing particularly groundbreaking here, it's a very entertaining read; plenty of action, food for thought with a scarily plausible future, and convoluted plot threads which are (slightly messily) tied up at the end. Not quite Richard Morgan, but think Total Recall for the Noughties and you won't be far wrong.



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