Master of puppets
Release Date: OUT NOW!
368 pages | Hardback/ ebook Author: Al Robertson Publisher: Gollancz
invariably brings with it plenty of expectations – data crime, weird tech, a noir- ish tone – but “foulmouthed AI ventriloquist’s dummies” isn’t generally on the list. They’re among some of the offbeat pleasures that debut novelist Al Robertson serves up in Crashing Heaven, a stylish blend of techno thriller and hard SF.
It’s the story of Jack Forster, a man who fought on the losing side of a war between AIs and has returned to Station, an asteroidconstructed habitat orbiting a devastated Earth. Jack’s mind is permanently linked with a “puppet” AI named Hugo Fist, a virtual ventriloquist’s dummy who’ll soon be taking possession of Jack’s body thanks to a dodgy software licence. But while Jack only has limited time left, he and Fist are dragged into a mystery that’s linked with the god- like AIs who now rule humanity…
In amongst the plot’s twists and turns, Robertson pulls off evocative prose and some imaginative angles on the relationship between the human and digital worlds. The opening of the book is a little rocky, overdoing the noir romanticism and Fist’s sweary wisecracks, but it gains confidence as it progresses, building towards an effective and impactful climax. Crashing Heaven doesn’t quite reach the heights of mindbenders like Altered Carbon or The Quantum Thief, but it’s still a satisfying widescreen adventure for those who like their SF with a darker edge. Saxon Bullock Robertson is part of a band who “create soundscapes where new weird electronica meets deep- listening Lovecraftian delirium.”