The debut book of Roger Levy, this science fiction novel tells of an Earth near its ecological end, where the air is nearly unbreathable and the citizens are chronically depressed escapists. The main character, Jon Sciler, is called a Far Warrior, part of a troop sent to retake a planet needed for colonization several years ago. They failed, however, and the Earth is bitter as a result, ostracizing the Far Warriors, who are now prone to suicide. Sciler finds himself suspicious of a friend’s suicide, and seeks to discover what is really killing the Far Warriors.
First impression upon finishing this book: this is Matrix on crack. Or ecstacy. The mixing of reality with virtual reality, the question of which was real or not, etc., was familiar to other books and movies I have read/seen. But it was well executed in this case, and full of suspense. The only problem was the confusion evoked. Many stories, books, movies, whatever start with some event or problem (like a murder) to get the audience’s attention and keep it, then explain the conditions causing the problem. However, for the explaination to take place on page 94 of a 350 page book struck me as a little weird. That’s 94 pages of “what the heck is going on?”. From there, until the end portion of the book, the plot moved smoothly, keeping the suspense of who was behind the deaths, what would happen in the Jon’s love life, what was reality versus virtual reality, etc. The ending, however… Very rarely has a book so confused me. I can follow some of the threads that lead to the conclusion, like Chrye’s death and the ultimate fight between Jon and the villian (whose name I shall not reveal), but the entire afterlife scene seems to have come from a thread with a gap in it. It seems stretched given the information previously mentioned about Dirangesept.
Would I recommend this book? With reservations, yes. This is a book to be read carefully, then reread, in order to understand its nuances and subtlies of plot and character. But the character development is great, and the “setting” to support the theme of reality versus illusion (namely, the soldiers’ plight) is excellent. Certain things could have done with a little more exploration or rearranging, but I will defintely be keeping up with Roger Levy for future books.