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by T. Warwick

Pub Date: July 25th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0615820613
Publisher: The Artificial Mirage

In Warwick’s futuristic debut thriller, a trader encounters a labyrinthine criminal underworld during his search for his missing lover.

Charlie, an American, is a successful trader in Saigon with a lavish lifestyle and a beautiful co-worker and girlfriend named Lauren. When he’s not plotting major moves on the stock market, he and Lauren enjoy the latest in augmented reality—technology used mostly in advertising, featuring “dinosaurs that pranced out onto the sidewalk from sports bars” and “city skylines that changed from Makati to Beijing to Mexico City and crumbled as people walked through them.” But Charlie’s high-stakes, high-rewards lifestyle comes crashing down around him when he’s arrested during a police raid of his office. Imprisoned in a foreign country and faced with the loss of his career, fortune and lover, Charlie shifts his sole purpose to finding Lauren and re-establishing their relationship. Accompanied by an augmented-reality version of Lauren, Charlie travels to several countries, including Vietnam and Bahrain, and becomes involved in the equally high-stakes world of smuggling. Along the way, he crosses paths with Harold, Cameron and Saleh, whose activities lead Charlie on a dangerous, destructive path. Warwick’s narrative is fast-paced and full of energy and ideas; however, the main story is overshadowed by several promising subplots left undeveloped. For example, Harold and Lauren are concerned about HIV, but this topic is addressed fleetingly, without much explanation of how their concerns affect their lifestyles and relationships. The novel includes a fairly large cast of characters whose lives and fates are frequently intertwined. Occasionally, this works in the novel’s favor, but most of the relationships lack a back story that explains why and how the characters are connected. One of the novel’s best aspects is Charlie’s relationship with Lauren as well as his attempts to re-create that relationship through an augmented-reality version of Lauren. The passages in which Charlie decides on her attributes and mannerisms are particularly poignant. Real Lauren’s relationships with other characters aren’t as clearly defined, though. She begins as a trader along with Charlie but spends most of the novel in the company of a prostitute named Stephanie.

Boasts exotic locales and tantalizing hints of an intriguing technological future, but the effect is diminished by a weak, meandering narrative.