Crashing Heaven by Al Robertson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I love my Cyberpunk. I love Post-Cyberpunk even more. This here is a very well-crafted Hard-
SF novel that is a surprisingly easy read.
I can blame most of the ease and the goodness squarely on the interactions between Jack and Fist. Jack's been screwed over by the Pantheon's contracts and Fist, his erstwhile puppet, his slaved AI, is scheduled to legally take over poor Jack. The war between the Totality (The post-mortality humans who had given themselves godlike virtual powers) and the Pantheon (The machine legal entity and alien that has quashed the chaos and the squabbling of the egos) ended with the Totality forced into civilized behavior and low men on the totem pole always seem to get stuck with the shaft.
That's where Jack, the stand-in for what might be loosely called a Hard-Boiled Detective, but isn't, or isn't really such, has been saddled with a huge debt to the now defunct corporation that had given him the extremely good use of a virtual puppet, an excellent hacking machine, but after the contract defaulted, he was left in debt to the last surviving entity, and since he had no funds or collateral, the puppet will soon own Jack's body and mind. Leaving Jack... nowhere.
If someone told me this was going to be a strange and f-k'd up twist on the story of Pinocchio set in a time and place where the shades of the uploaded dead haunt the overlay-mesh, the virtual view of reality, where gods play long games in the ubiquitous and utterly pervasive servers that humanity lives within, then I'd have said... "Wow. That sounds freaking amazing." (No one did.)
Of course, if I had been given the spoilers that follow this little setup, or at least the idea that Jack and Fist find common ground in the short time they have left, that they hunt down the people behind the conspiracies, to get out from under the machinations of gods and aliens, and that they don't always remain in hard place, but manage to hold their own against amazing odds, then I'd have absolutely no reason to worry about whether I'd enjoy the tale.
As a matter of fact, I was AMAZED. It's full of awesomely tight storytelling, great conversations, fast plotting, and of course so much happens that propels this story into the stratosphere that I was left with my jaw dropping through most of the tale.
But let me add a small caveat: Out of all SF, I appreciate and love near-singularity or post-post cyberpunk tales the most out of the entire genre. Anything that sparks my imagination and revs my engines this much is going to be an automatic "Hey You Guys!" But don't let that fool you overmuch.
This one is tight and sharp as hell and a pure delight to glide through. It really ought to be on the short list for anyone's "must awe" list. I've still got Jack and Fist in my head, playing around and learning to live and trust one another. It's a classic. These are truly wonderful characters that won't even be outdone by the huge action scenes and surprises. So what do I say to that? I say Rock ON. :)
I can't believe that this is Al Robertson's debut. Something tells me that he's going to be on my "must read immediately" list from now on. :)
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