I was introduced to Elizabeth Bear the other weekend whilst I was helping some friends break in their new allotment. Her debut novel is set in a Shadowrun style environment, 50 years in the future. The gulf stream has packed up, the USA isn’t so united any more, the sole remaining superpower is Canada and transnational corporations are all the rage.
The story, however, is what sets this apart from all the other shadowrun novels I’ve been ploughing through of late. The heroine is a 50year old, world weary combat veteren who, with her group of equally heroic friends, is uniquely qualified to save the day. True, there are one or two characters who meet the usual sterotype of a cybernetically boosted street samurai, but even they’re tempered with a degree of normality and a liberally applied sense of cool taken straight out of film noir. Richard Feymann gets one of the more gratiuitous characters, lending his name to a rakish AI who runs round the Matrix in an amusing and morally ambiguous way. If the book has a weakness, it’s that the antagonists are given the same treatment as the good guys and, well, they’re insufficiently evil.
It wasn’t the smoothest book I’ve ever read, but the story arc is compelling and leaves you wanting the next one. Luckily there’re another 2 in the series.