Thursday, 15 May 2008
‘The Mirrored Heavens’ – David J. Williams (Bantam Spectra)
I don’t normally pick up thrillers so a sci-fi story about infighting between terrorists and various political ‘black ops’ teams didn’t initially fill me with confidence. I thought I’d give it a go though and have to say that I’m very glad that I did. It’s a bit early to be picking my favourite sci-fi novel of the year but I can say that ‘The Mirrored Heavens’ is definitely on my shortlist.
It’s the 22nd century and a mixture of Cold War, environmental damage and an Arab-Israeli nuclear exchange has prompted the various power blocs to draw up the Treaty of Zurich in an attempt to stop world affairs spiralling completely out of control. The symbol of this new found unity is the construction of the Phoenix space elevator but its destruction by the terrorist group ‘Autumn Rain’ causes chaos to break out again. Counterintelligence agents Claire Haskell and Jason Marlowe are best placed to get to the bottom of this but what chance of success do they have when they don’t even know if their feelings for each other are the truth or not?
This world of the future is a dangerous place to live, especially if you’re an agent tasked with either keeping the peace or advancing the goals of your shadowy masters. This makes for a story with a good mix of futuristic warfare and espionage. The espionage is particularly convoluted as people change sides regularly and information is doled out sparingly by characters who want to remain in control. As a result you really have to keep an eye on what’s going on or you will miss something important. I paid close attention and still managed to miss a couple of things that made a difference to the plot. Maybe the plot is a little too convoluted and this gets in the way (too many different groups all with conflicting agendas)? I don’t know but luckily ‘The Mirrored Heavens’ is a book that I am looking forward to re-reading (soon) anyway so I’ll have a better idea then. Another thing that bugged me slightly were cryptic conversations between characters who didn’t want to give too much away. They succeeded in this but it was to the extent where I was often left wondering just exactly what had been said! In a strange kind of way though this actually made reading the book more enjoyable when conclusions were finally drawn and payoffs made. Despite this, the plot kept me hooked right until the end and that’s all that really matters right?
Now what I’ve said so far makes ‘The Mirrored Heavens’ sound anything like ‘favourite sci-fi book’ material but there is a lot more to it which I got a lot out of. Williams writes a pretty mean action scene which gets the blood pumping. Whether it’s two operatives fighting underneath the Moon or an agent going up against a ship full of combat drones, the writing surges with adrenaline and some of the moves/countermeasures that Williams comes up with shows just how much thought he has put into his world building. Plot is important but I love world building, for me it’s the thing that can make or break a book that I want to get lost in. ‘The Mirrored Heavens’ is a winner in this case, Williams has chosen a direction for Earth to head in and paints a vivid picture of the results. His cityscapes are gorgeously drawn (If menacing) with a real cyberpunk feel. Talking of cyberpunk; Williams takes computer/net hacking to a level only dreamed of with the introduction of the ‘Razors’, hackers who can manipulate technology like never before.
‘The Mirrored Heavens’ is a difficult book to get into but I found it almost impossible to put down once I started (and that was only because I had to go to work). The finale is left open ended enough for a sequel (at least) and I’m looking forward to reading more by David Williams.
Eight and a Half out of Ten
Edited to add: I forgot to mention that David has a pretty cool looking website over Here. Check it out...