Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mirrored Heavens by David J. Williams

The year is 2110 and the world a hellish reflection of today – global warming has wrecked everything, the environment has been all but destroyed with places like the Amazon nothing but a polluted wasteland, and humanity has endured and multiplied. The US has evolved into a near-fascist state controlling the Western Hemisphere; a Russo-Chinese government dominates the east, with a neutral Europe in the middle. A fragile peace emerges after a long cold war and an unknown terrorist organization strikes at the heart of the world order.

Mirrored Heavens (US, UK, Canada) tells its story through the eyes of the soldier-agents of David J. Williams’ world – following three arcs to the conclusion. Each arc generally focuses on a pair of individuals, each similar with a high-tech agent (razor) working with a high-talent physical force (mech). The razor hacks into the cyber-world known as the zone and the mech blows things up. Each pair follows a mission of sorts, fights for survival and understanding, leaving a staggering body count in their wake.

Williams’ take on a post-cyberpunk military sci-fi presents an interesting perspective – near enough in the future to be relative, far enough to be a shadow of what we know today. The political and environmental realities represent today’s worst-case scenarios and the world is decidedly not a better place. But, Williams doesn’t get far into it – this is the Hollywood-video game version, all action, all octane, and things blow up. Depth is hinted, but not realized; characters created, but who can trust those creations when their very memories were probably invented by those in charge to fit the circumstances necessary. Trust no one, believe nothing, and carry a big stick. It’s a strange combination of left-leaning ideas, right-leaning violent response, terrorism, and government betrayal and corruption.

Utilizing this made-for-Hollywood script of all action and little depth, Williams manages to sneak in some interesting ideas with a subtle (and exaggerated) allegory to 9-11 and various reactions, with a seeming nod towards conspiracy theories. While I would have loved to see this aspect further explored, it certainly wouldn’t fit well with rough ‘em up, shoot ‘em up approach taken.

The prose is serviceable, the characterization adequate (at best) and the action nonstop. In fact there is so much action, and detailed description of it, I became somewhat desensitized to it – which is big word for bored. While the plot was fun and interesting (and has a few good twists along the way), the all-out focus on action assaulted me to the point of not caring. I could easily put the book aside and not pick it up for ages – in stead of being an addicting page-turner, it often found use as a coaster.

David J. Williams’ debut novel hits the ground running and never slows down. The cover blurbs speak true and untrue – they praise the action and vision of the future, but calling this a next-generation Neuromancer (US, UK, Canada) goes too far. Mirrored Heavens should especially appeal to a younger audience addicted to Hollywood and video games and its marriage of military sci-fi and a post-cyberpunk world. In the end Mirrored Heavens is a forgettable book that may be a fun way to pass the time for those who need a break from gaming and their home theatres. 5.5-6/10

1 comment:

Tia Nevitt said...

I'm reading this now. I haven't gotten very far into it because of a slightly overbooked reading schedule. I'm most interested in the unnamed POV character. I don't have much of a background in reading cyberpunk (does Otherland count?), so maybe I'll have a different perspective from the "outside".


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