A Los Angeles cyberpunk saga about the fusion of mind, machine and the federal government.
Opening on a semihallucinatory Santa Monica morning, Davison’s tale quickly changes from pleasing beach scene to an unexplained nightmare of lost innocence, lost love and a distillation of apocalyptic anxiety. The apparent, but ambiguous, loss of hero Jake Travissi’s family hangs over much of the book while Travissi attempts to stay in L.A. and think positively. Travissi, known to his compatriots in the police department as “Jackhammer,” has recently been ousted for having used excessive force on a governor’s son. But like all down-on-their-luck ex-cops, he has a second chance; if he’s willing to have the unfortunately named P-chip installed in his brain, he can work for the Department of Homeland Security. The novel’s premise is a keen extrapolation based on the utopian visions of futurists like Ray Kurzweil and the disturbing inevitabilities of Moore’s law. The P-chip creates harmonious prisons, impossibly fit and happy citizens, instant communication and, for Travissi, a slippery grasp on his will and thoughts. His chip has been compromised by a group of tyrannical hackers known as Godheads and they control key people in key positions to render the citizenry into a compliant stupor so that 21st-century elites can irrevocably enhance their power. The novel utilizes disconnected flashbacks and this buttresses the general themes of memory and its existential problems, but this is often done with little respect to enhancing tension and so the excuse for using this structure seems less convincing when the reader is begging for a little exposition. However, the intelligence and cleverness with which the novel has been written is obvious on every page. At times Davison can be a bit too purple, as when he describes L.A.’s heat locking down the city like a “lethargic” straightjacket. It’s a perfect metaphor brought down by going a word too far. The prose, though, is nonetheless the novel’s strength, and Davison always errs on the side of abundance rather than the faux hardboiled-ness that inflicts so many mystery thrillers on the market. Though the themes are familiar and the territory well-trodden, the book has wit and heart to spare.
A thoughtfully composed piece of cyberpunk that will please readers of both science fiction and noir.