(2001) Eric Brown, Gollancz, £5.99, pbk pp309, ISBN 0-575507-301-2
Hal Halliday is a private detective in 21st century New York. His partner just died a few months ago on a previous case. (This last was the subject of Brown's previous novel New York Nights). Then gorgeous holodrama queen Vanessa Artois enters his office asking him to locate her daughter Canada. With a lucrative case on his hands his professional life starts to look good for all of a second when laser fire cracks the window, lancing the room. Leaving by the fire escape, Halliday chases a killer of improbable agility across the roof tops to an encounter that would make David Brin envious. And so begins an adventure that takes Halliday into real-space illusion as well as plumb virtual realities.
This is the second in Brown's 'Virex' trilogy. This is a rollicking detective tale of the Marlowe persuasion. Seedy streets, shady bars and sweaty bar owners, stacks of Chinese food, and even a dash of sex. Though it has to be said that despite its futuristic setting, there is not as much SF underpinning the story than there appeared to be in New York Nights; at least there is little new aside from a computer hacking revolutionary group operating in isolated three-person cells. But do not let this put you off, it is a minor quibble. Tropes from the first book reappear: the holographic faceded buildings, the holographic 'chu' disguises, computer net-linked CCTV, lasers, etc. The writing is solid as is the (limited) use of science, the plot is well-paced and though many of the characters are easily recognisable stereotypes, they are reasonably developed. Nonetheless I am hoping for something a little more exotic to round the trilogy off but, make no mistake, I most certainly will be reading the final instalment. Brown is hardly a prolific writer, but he is getting there and certainly hits the spot.
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