As a random, free download, on Kindle, I really wasn't sure what to expect from this. I'd heard of neither the Virex series, nor of Eric Brown before, but I was going through a phase of eagerly downloading anything free and vaguely science-fictiony. Consequently, I ended up on holiday with a Kindle full of books that I couldn't have told apart in a line-up. Luckily I had a friend's daughter there to choose the next book for me, through the power of a complicated rhyme and paging through the list of books one by one until she declared this the winner.
Initially it seemed like it was going to be a hard slog. The book started out positively purple, with far too many adjectives per noun. Then Brown introduced a cast of alternative lifestyle lesbians and I worried it was going to end up one of those man-writes-in-too-much-detail-about-lesbians books. Luckily, once the plot kicked in I was left with a science-fiction crime-noir tale set in a run-down futuristic New York. Hal Halliday and Barney Kluger, both grizzled ex-cops, run a less-than-glamorous detective agency in the lower-rent side of Spanish Harlem. They specialise in finding missing people, however with the recent influx of refugees, this isn't as easy as they'd like. The story revolves mostly around the single case: Carrie Villeux has hired them to find her missing lover, Sissi Nigeria. As Carrie and Sissi are futuristic alternative-culture lesbians, this gives the two detectives plenty of opportunity to excercise their dated, paternalistic views, while still being the good guys and Brown is careful to not let the book stray into the horrible mess of stereotype and cliché it could have so easily been. Sissi is a leading engineer with a virtual reality company, which provides the convenient science-fiction hook. And before we know it we have multiple dead bodies and the case is much larger than they, or the police, have realised. A pleasant mix of Bladerunner
, I Robot
(the movie more than the book) and with a similar feel to Gregory S. Fallis's Dog on Fire
(although nowhere near as well structured, written or characterised) - I found myself racing through the book to find out what happens in the end.
Annoyingly, the book contained a number of quite annoying typos and odd acronyms. The early, and repeated, use of 'ms' as shorthand for manuscript was very confusing - I had to look it up. The typos start about half way through, and increase in frequency as you approach the end. Either the editor had given up by that point, or had become so engrossed in the story that he had stopped actually checking the text.