Thursday, August 17, 2006

Review: Forbidden Cargo

This debut novel from Rebecca Rowe blends the high concept sci-fi storytelling of Robert Heinlein with flashy visual descriptions and action-packed sequences that recall anime films and videogames as much as William Gibson’s cyberpunk classic Neuromancer (Ace Books, 1985). In 2110 Xerkler, the inventor of a complex machine that grants access to the entirety of mankind’s knowledge, finds himself pulled into the service of a government council to prove the existence of the Imafofas, a race of advanced humans developed through illegal genetic experimentation. But Xerkler already knows of their existence. Along with a few other humans, he sees them as the next step in the evolution of mankind. What follows is a politically charged thriller that careens the reader across Earth, Mars and the nebulous world of cyberspace.

Rowe’s inclusion of Eastern philosophy, mostly through the enlightenment-seeking character named MAMintelligence, works as a thoughtful and interesting thread. She also works in a lot of word-play references, particularly through character and setting names, to Anime films and Manga comics. I found it pretty amusing, but the references will obviously be over your head if you're not familiar with these areas.

The beginning of the novel gets a touch bogged down in explaining the background of the large cast of characters; so much so that I almost gave up on it. But once you work about 1/3 of the way through, the novel transforms into an action-packed page turner that will satisfy sci-fi fans searching for a fun and quick read.


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