I was trying to explain to my wife what had me so enthralled by this book and all I could think of to say was, ‘go read it!’ But, that’s not a very helpful review. I also thought about explaining it as a blend of Neal Stephenson’s cyberpunk best and Richard K Morgan’s great Kovacs novels. But, I don’t really like making those similarities as a rule. So, check out the blurb and then I’ll take a crack at explaining my experience at reading the excellent Crashing Heaven.
With Earth abandoned, humanity resides on Station, an industrialised asteroid run by the sentient corporations of the Pantheon. Under their leadership a war has been raging against the Totality – ex-Pantheon AIs gone rogue.
With the war over, Jack Forster and his sidekick Hugo Fist, a virtual puppet tied to Jack’s mind and created to destroy the Totality, have returned home.
Labelled a traitor for surrendering to the Totality, all Jack wants is to clear his name but when he discovers two old friends have died under suspicious circumstances he also wants answers. Soon he and Fist are embroiled in a conspiracy that threatens not only their future but all of humanity’s. But with Fist’s software licence about to expire, taking Jack’s life with it, can they bring down the real traitors before their time runs out?
There’s so much to say about this novel; so many great bifurcations from the main plot that paint an impressive and wonderful universe, it’s hard to know where to begin. Al Robertson is one of those writers who can create worlds out of throw-away sentences. Casting so much information against the powerful churning of his story that, as a reader, you yearn to know more.
The narrative between Jack and Hugo, accountant and warrior software respectively, is beautifully crafted, mirroring a buddy cop movie over the hardboiled detective story. The stunning background of life on ‘Station’, an asteroid world, and the ruling, corporate gods (AIs who manage humanity) is captivating. The metaphysical ideas of artificial and biological life, of minds as patterns and codes, that runs throughout the book are deftly handled. And, finally, the page turning plot of mega-corporate corruption, of media propaganda and consumer blindness, of immersion in the virtual and the elision of facts and truths, of political power plays at the expense of lives, cuts close to the bone of our own modern world.
In short: read the book; it’s awesome. Crashing Heaven is a hardboiled detective novel set in an unparalleled cyberpunk space that stars a jaded accountant who has a virtual, psychotic puppet attached to his mind…what’s not to like?
Published by Gollancz