Science Fiction Book Review

Double Vision

(2005) Tricia Sullivan, Orbit, 10.99, pbk, 377pp, ISBN 1-841-49337-6

Oh Lord, why am I made to read this crap...? This is not, in any way, a sequel to Maul, but you might be forgiven for thinking so as Double Vision is more or less the same book all over again (hence the title?). Here we go.

Karen Orbach has a job watching television, but she doesn't see what we see. She sees The Grid, an alien, shifting landscape where female humans fight against the very environment, backed by AI machine-forces (women replaced men, who freaked out too easily, and the women are in the process of being replaced by machines). Karen's employers, Dataplex Corp, ask only that she observe and not interfere, which suits Karen's pacifist (actually apathetic) frame of mind. But then Karen discovers that her 'visions' are not real, but are induced by a new form of subliminal advertising, and Karen is the barometer of success. Starting to sound familiar? Remember Maul - girl gangs dominate in a virtual environment, etc. And, just like with Maul, once the reader discovers that the virtual world of the Grid isn't 'real', then you cease to care about any of the characters in that environment. Karen's 'real' life is slightly more interesting, with her weight problems and karate classes, which become a sexist environment when the Okinawans who founded her 'school' come to visit. But it's not convincing when she becomes violent to her leader, presumably as a result of her exposure to the world of The Grid, since previous mental problems and violence are referred to throughout - i.e. she's never quite the pacifist we were led to believe. And, by the end of the book, it's just not convincing that Karen has actually changed in any way. There's an attempt to lift the book at the end when it is implied that Karen might be able to bring something out of the Grid and into the real world but, just as with earlier in the book when Karen (also supposedly a psychic who has helped the police) exercises psychic abilities on other characters, the things she says are never validated, and neither is this crossing of worlds.

This is a clumsy book. The writing's fine, but the plot sucks big time. You never really get the impression that this has been thought out at all. It is particularly annoying to me that the back cover blurb invokes Bill Gibson and Phil Dick, two writers who Sullivan is not fit to suck the toe-jam of but, once again, I'll have to admit that I am probably in a minority of one here (just as I did with Maul) going by other reviews and comments. I do not know who this stuff appeals to, but it is not me and I cannot recommend it. I have given Sullivan three chances now (the other one was Lethe if you're curious) and I can tell you right now that I have no intention of reading another Sullivan book ever again. Life is too short and there is too much good stuff to read to bother with this crap any more.

Tony Chester

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