Monday, January 31, 2005

Catching Up With The Resurrected Man

I've fallen a little behind on my book reviews, so I'm catching up first with The Resurrected Man by Sean Williams. Just for fun, I'm breaking the review into two parts:

The Good

Williams does an excellent job with world-building. Set in the late 21st century, nanotech and true artifical intelligence are an everyday reality. The new developing technology called d-mat, the matter-transporter made famous via Star Trek, offers cheap, fast transportation for everyone. Its champions push its merits, declaring it as not just a way to revolutionize trade and travel, but as possibly holding the secret to mankind's immortality. Its opponents fear the d-mats potential to harm the human body and any who might use it to hurt another person.

Author Williams, making full use of this detailed future world that slightly echoes Neuromancer, creates a mystery-thriller that's a pretty addictive and easy read. A diobolical serial killer known only as the Twinmaker exploits some hidden glitches within the technology and uses the d-mat network to kidnap his unsuspecting victims, personifying all the people's fears of d-mat. Detective Marylin Blaylock spearheads the case, an investigation made all the more personal with all the murder victims strangely resembling her. More than just a standard thriller, this novel raises interesting and unique questions of legality, technology and identity slightly remenescent of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.

The case's prime suspect is Jonah McEven, private investigator and former partner of Blaylock. Although he's spent the last three years lying unconscious in a tub of protein gel, all the evidence strangely points his way. The investigative team forces McEven to aid in the investigation in order to prove his own innocence. As an added twist, McEven reopens the investigation of the death of his father, a noted scientist and known opponent of d-mat. The two story lines weave back and forth, finally converging into the climax.

The Bad

The plot style is pretty heavily borrowed from Agatha Christie. Perhaps its my own personal bias, but mystery writers need to move beyond her little tropes. It was clever during her own time, but now comes off as quaint at best, or just a bad knock off when not done well. For example, towards the end McEven calls all the suspects and investigators back to the scene of the crime. I half expected him to say, "So I guess you're wondering why I've called you all here." Likewise, a good number of the characters are types and don't really seem that unique to the setting and time period of the story. You have a driven businessman, a cop with attitude, a crazy serial killer, and on and on. In his defense, Williams does well with the primary characters, McEven and Blaylock, and the AI character is pretty compelling.

So should you read it? If you're a big s/f nut, certainly. I'd even give it to mystery readers looking for something different. Not high art, but it's a good, fun read.



LadyLitBlitzin said...

That sounds good -- well, other than the Agatha Christie part. That cracked me up, though, "I guess you're wondering why I gathered you all here." At least nobody said, "And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for those pesky kids!"

Hebdomeros said...

Ha! I wished I'd thought of that.