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A futuristic sci-fi/fantasy heavy on action and suspense, light on moral complexity.

Bad things are happening in Chicago. First, the discovery of a murder scene strewn with so many disembodied pieces that the total casualties can only be estimated. Then there’s the club scene dominated by the drug Harmony, purported to enhance social connectivity but lately causing users to self-mutilate and kill. There’s also at least one case of a man plummeting out of the night sky but surviving just long enough to bite, vampire-style, a passerby who stops to help. Into the chaos step our heroes: Ping, family counselor turned detective, diminutive but deadly with sword and gun; Alex, computer genius who has forsaken techno-fortune for the life of a history TA secretly studying wizardry; Rae, policewoman, devoted girlfriend to Alex, and, with some magical help, a formidable fighter herself; and Anne, a cripplingly self-conscious and obese phlebotomist who gains superpowers of sorts after being bitten by a dying man. Set approximately 70 years in the future, Doty’s vision of the future embraces both the newfangled and the ancient. While technology is generally beneficial in this world, trouble arises from ancient sources. Though not sufficiently fleshed out, the mythology of this world includes timeless Clans, powered by Savants, or wizards, and Torpedoes, magically-enhanced fighters, locked in a ceaseless struggle for power. The balance tips when the Savant Kaspari seeks power and knowledge beyond his station. His attempts to go beyond the Loom, the mystical source of power underlying the known world–allow the Outsider, the champion of chaos, to gain purchase on this reality and to start unleashing destruction. Suddenly, it is up to the motley crew of overwhelmed but bighearted strangers to band together, distinguish between friend and foe and save the world. Doty’s razor-sharp prose and impeccable sense of timing make this book difficult to put down. However, because the suspense is built and sustained solely by narrative technique, rather than by ethical quandaries or tragic flaws in the characters themselves, this story proves less enjoyable the second time around. For a book that clearly pays homage to Blade Runner, which it frequently cites, it ultimately lacks the moral entanglements that give the film such depth. It’s good for one gripping read, but unlikely to be revisited.

A fast-paced, highly entertaining thriller.

Pub Date: July 12th, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4196-9685-5
Program: Kirkus Indie
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