A virus turns utilitarian androids into sentient beings, heroic and otherwise, in this science-fiction novel.
Opening with a blog excerpt from the 27th century, the book gives readers an almost sing-song introduction to the “Great Troubles” of the 24th century. On the Stellar Rim, human colonists had become unwittingly and cripplingly dependent upon the machines of CyRand Corp. Inevitably, CyRand develops androids, and the androids, in turn, inevitably develop self-awareness. If it seems all too familiar interstellar territory at first—shades of Blade Runner’s Tyrell Corp. and leitmotifs cribbed from at least a dozen episodes of Star Trek—Williams won’t mind; the entire book pays homage to several genres, and the novel wears it proudly. The concise exposition allows the story proper to open with a melodramatic murder inspired by a jilted owner of a surprisingly unfaithful pleasure android. This supposed impossibility profoundly shakes the android’s makers, the elites of CyRand, and they need answers. Enter Daedalus Jones, the leather clad investigator assigned to the case. He’s a serviceable protagonist, but the main attraction is the alluring redhead, and dutiful CyRand assistant, Arsinoe Lane. The tension is palpable between the two, and as Jones traces the virus that has infected the android world with sentience, their relationship serves as a romantic, if pulpy, counterpoint to the byzantine mythos of the Stellar Rim. Though often de-emphasized in such novels, Williams’ prose is a significant part of the show. Not quite hard-boiled, there are genuinely evocative descriptions of androids scything wheat-soy on distant planes, but the action, despite the mysterious plotting, is never confusing or overwrought. The final revelations might be predicted by veteran science-fiction readers, but the journey is compelling enough to make the novel’s concise narrative easily enjoyable.
A fun, thoughtful novel that will please fans of more than a few genres.