An alcoholic detective investigating his ex-wife’s murder overturns evidence of a dangerous conspiracy in this debut noir-flavored sci-fi novel.
In the near future—only those over 65 can remember a world before the internet—three corporations control everything, and the biggest of these giants is Chicago-based Unitex. Nearly everyone wears implanted chips manufactured by the company to access information, entertainment, and communication. A few, like Chicago police detective Jack Waldron, prefer external links; radical group PURE, People United Resisting Enhancements, entirely opposes cybernetics. Ever since his young daughter died, for which he blames himself, and his divorce, Jack has retreated into whiskey and virtual reality replays of his best memories. But when his ex, Rebecca Witherspoon, is brutally raped and killed, Jack is drawn into a series of murder investigations and virtual worlds that at first seem unrelated. Though warned off, Jack keeps probing as the body count rises; he often encounters violence and danger, risking narrow escapes in search of the truth. With a few allies (or are they?), such as Cassandre “Cassie” Charbonneau—a PURE activist—Jack must crawl out of his whiskey bottle and confront both past and present to bring down a conspiracy bent on controlling all of humanity. In his novel, Lange combines the hard-boiled, fisticuffs atmosphere of pulp detective fiction with future-tech gizmos and accompanying paranoia. The near-future setting in roughly the early 2050s is close enough to readers’ own for its presentation of issues regarding surveillance and privacy to grab them. The author’s descriptions of virtual reality games, AI–controlled cars, and similar tech are engaging and well-written. But in ways large and small, the future hasn’t changed enough. An elderly battle-ax in hair curlers; sex workers named “Tiffany, Brandy, Amber”; a man who dislikes that his wife has more money than he does; a lesbian who’s criticized for “pretending to be” a man; a cinematic showdown in a warehouse—too many elements of this tale seem old-fashioned or clichéd today, much less 30-plus years from now.
Often exciting and absorbing with a tough, hard-boiled style, but it could be more imaginative about future society.