In Matiasz’s (End Time, 1994) sci-fi novel, a private investigator scours a dystopian San Francisco for a killer.
By 2042, America has fragmented: massive earthquakes have devastated the West Coast, while riots and social chaos have created lawless regions across the country, and some territories have even seceded from the United States. Private eye Jimmy Hidalgo’s latest gig seems relatively easy: find a missing woman—a deadly OverUnity operative who’s likely in San Francisco. His client is Ajnzar, who turns out to be one of the Majjar, an alien species allied with the OverUnity civilization that governs the Sagittarius galactic arm. Jimmy is also looking into the murder of his friend Danny Delgado, although forensics can’t quite explain the condition of his small, gray corpse. The PI soon suspects that Danny’s killer and the missing human operative, whose name translates to “Anger Cat Stealth,” are the same woman. Meanwhile, another human named Becky Wiley has managed to illegally acquire three security cases, which separately contain a gem, personal documents belonging to a person named Robert Yi Lee, and a bizarre alien artifact; she does her best to steer clear of suddenly inquisitive cops and feds. More murders ensue, and Jimmy eventually crosses paths with Becky, a hunter alien, and a human with psionic ability. Matiasz presents an engaging view of a future world that brims with intriguing political and societal issues; for example, racial segregation is shown to spark migration, and openly gay Becky remembers high school days of homophobic torment. The author also relays extensive exposition in various, clever ways, including snippets of a TV show and part of a lecture about “America’s Terror War.” There’s so much worldbuilding, in fact, that it doesn’t allow much room for action, and the inevitable climax happens very late in the book. The ambience, however, is so richly textured and frightening that it’s palpable.
An astute, socially relevant tale set in a world that readers will happily get lost in.