The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds, Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, Autonomous by Annalee Newitz and Gridlinked by Neal Asher are all well worth reading.
Autonomous is the best of these novel. I loved the premise that for the several heroic characters the fight was against Pharma, who withheld life-saving treatment from the poor and the dispossessed (and there are a lot of them!) Jack is a terrific character and Threezee is very convincing. Mel, the AI raised as a human, research scientist is the best of the lot. The author waltzes us through drugs and supplements which enable humans to function at extra-ordinary levels. However, then there is the Pharma hitmen, Eliasz and his sub-ordinate AI, Paladin. The author is interested in exploring the affair between the two but in so doing gives Paladin so much power that the piecemeal process of their hunt for Jack is not credible. I really really liked this book but the physical hunt, several chase scenes, through he dives seemed a tad unnecessary.
The Prefect most appealing element is the development of the character, number-cruncher, earnest Thalia Ny, the off-sider to the hard-bitten, law-enforcing, sad Dreyfus whom, even after we learn he had a mind wipe so as to cope with overwhelming grief, remains a cardboard cutout personality. The science-fiction environment is created with loving detail – sometimes excessive detail, this is the real strength of the novel, though the AI seems to be unaccountably thin in defense and the villains, the psychotic mind warping Aurora and the traitor, run rings around a much larger, better equipped opponent. Whereupon Dreyfus darts about the system, chase scene in space drive, in a variety of vehicles hunting the physical Aurora and trying to understand motive. The predicament of Ammonier, who continues in a role of authority, was ridiculous. The reference to other problematic groups/individuals including the conjoiners, the Ultras and the clockmaker heavily point to the series. The best sci-fi concept occurred during Dreyfus’ ethicial conversation with the Beta manifestation of Delphine, the uploaded memories of the alpha (real) being.
Boneshaker begins with a fabulous scenario of a willful adolescent heading into danger, a heavily polluted quarantined part of the city, in search of his family’s old home. His mother, the wonderful Briar, sets off after him and has to enlist the assistance of black market traders. The edgy characters both Briar and Zeke meet are the strength of the novel, Rudy, Aadan Cly,Swakhammer, Miss Angeline and Lucy. The Blight, the bad air, is a good character too until it is given the additional attributes of not only being the basis of addictive Sap but has the ability to turn humans, only humans, into unstoppable zombies. And much of the novel is taken up with chase scenes with moments of rest, panting in masks, as the real humans are driven underground. The end is clever but here again is such an effective enemy one unconvinced by human survival.
Gridlocked likes indulging in description of amazing technology too. The interesting consideration in this novel is how direct association with AI leads to loss of personality, intuition and flexibility. Hero, James Bond like, Ian Cormac must surrender his direct link and rely on an android. While he is coping with his withdrawal he is fighting both the crazed criminal Pelter and his crazier android, Crane, and the old enemy, Dragon, wants help against the Maker. Lots of running around exchanging fire and surviving the impossible. The latter part of the novel is definitely not as good as the beginning and the thawing Cormac goes back into frozen personality mode even without the AI link.
My ‘but’ arises because in each of these novels whole populations are dispensed with willy-nilly with neither stain nor a wrench on the characters of those that do and those that witness. Reyonlds says is the most clearly ‘just over a thirtieth of the whole citizenry .. thank our stars we are talking about millions and not tens of millions… the citizenry will get over it and move on with their lives choosing to forget …’ I find this approach to death, violence and torture which is evident in all of these novels risible and not supported by any human experience. it is video game writing. Even Jack and Mel in Autonomous give themselves a little shake and get on with their careers.