A California detective searches for a serial killer who targets movie actors.
In this novel by Moore (The Merchant, the Janissary and the Corsair, 2017, etc.), Welles Lang is the greatest filmmaker of his generation. Actors both famous and unknown are dying to work with Welles. He and his collaborator Dr. Jack Crowley have now created the next immersive technology for filming, beyond 3-D, beyond holograms. There’s just one catch: This innovation does more than capture actors’ performances. It literally sucks the life essence out of them and into Welles’ magic box. So desiccated bodies of actors start popping up around Hollywood, sparking an investigation by Detective William Walker. Welles has another problem. Financing for this new technology came from a Croatian gangster, Ivan Blodovik, who expects Welles to turn his mistress, Davorka Stanich, into a star. Enemies of Welles lead the IRS and FBI to him and Ivan. Frustrated by Welles’ indifference, Ivan sends one of his thugs, Vitaly “Bob” Cervenko, to lean on him. But the filmmaker turns his machine on Bob, converting him into an avatar and his new enforcer. Considering himself beyond conventional morality, Welles collects more and more actors in his magic box, staying just ahead of the police trying to solve the increasing number of murders. Moore has created an entrancing cautionary tale of what happens when technology outpaces society’s ethical boundaries for it. In Welles’ mind, art trumps all, with the virtual actors just fodder for his visions as he plugs them into new roles at will. His partner in crime, Ivan, also thought himself above the law. Bob is the book’s redemptive character, going from darkness to light and eventually aiding the law in the pursuit of Welles and Ivan. The futuristic novel is fairly well-paced, although including lengthy segments that Welles is filming slows down the story without adding much to the narrative. But the author smoothly juggles a large cast of characters and various locations, which helps to propel the plot. The result is a thought-provoking take on the traditional Hollywood success story.
This speculative Hollywood tale deftly questions the desirability of immortality.