(2003) Roger Levy, Gollancz, £10.99, trd pbk, 389 pp, ISBN 0-575-07245-8
A front cover promo-line refers to the book containing elements of Philip K. Dick. This thought did dog me and put me off as I set down to read Dark Heavens; after all who could fill that man's shoes. Well I can assure you that Roger Levy is not the next Philip K. Dick. His plot lines need a greater overall coherency and simplicity that Dick managed despite what might appear on occasion as linear chaos. Dick was a master. Levy is not (yet?). There is a big difference. However, I can say that Dick's imagery does resonate through Dark Heavens. There is a modern world carrying with it the artefacts of its history. A world that is in the process of decay: worse, some form of planet wrenching cataclysm. This is never fully explained which I personally found a little unsatisfying as it was happening at the time of the plot and not some vague past apocalypse to which Dick might refer while his characters work the future. There is also grime. A protagonist that is uncertain of what is going on and who is working for whom and/or why? Mind games. Junk. Eccentric characters. Levy has clearly read his share of Philip K. Dick novels, and good on him. So forgive that cover promo-line.
The Earth is literally coming apart at the seams, and the seams are huge cracks that appear in the ground. Our one hope is to move to the only life-bearing planet we have found called Dirangesept. The only problem is the natives of Dirangesept are savage beasts which appear to have some sort of telepathic powers. Attempts to colonise the planet have failed, though one last huge efforty of an attempt is being mounted. So humanity is largely left on Earth to wallow in its final days. With resources becoming scarce, the authorities allow consensual mass suicides for those who want a new kind of cyber heaven promised by a wave of preacher types. The 'Administration' goes along with this but has to check and process licences. It is all done properly by the book. However for Cy Auger things are not so simple. Especially when a series of deaths leads him to believe that authorities are somehow involved with some of the mass suicides. Who can he trust? Who does he need to trust?
Dark Heavens is a colourful and intelligent, hard SF book that touches on science fantasy on entering cyberspace. It is written with conviction that carries you along, and an intelligence that keeps you engrossed. I believe that this is only Levy's second novel. If so then this man is definitely worth watching because Dark Heavens is most certainly a cut above the average novel. Levy may not be a master, or Phil Dick, but he is possibly a good student of the man and may well become an SF writer of note.
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