Recently, Vox Day and Steve Rzasa were kind enough to send me review copies of their new science fiction novel QUANTUM MORTIS: A MAN DISRUPTED and its attendant novella, QUANTUM MORTIS: GRAVITY KILLS (published through Marcher Lord Press), so I settled down to read them.
Murder mystery with rayguns IN SPACE!
Both works are set in the distant future, and center around one Graven Tower, a military policeman in the Armed Forces of Rhysalan, an independent planet ruled by a Duke. The planet is a small power, neutral in the conflict between the imperial Ascendancy and the communistic, borg-like Unity.* Rhysalan’s neutrality is further enhanced by the planet’s status as a sanctuary – the Duke has an open invitation to any overthrown governments-in-exile to settle upon Rhysalan (so long as they can pay the fees). Tower’s job is to help police the various exiled alien governments and make sure they behave themselves, as governments-in-exile tend to get up to mischief on a regular basis. Tower has the assistance of an “augment” called Baby, a super-advanced artificial intelligence that acts as a personal assistant, research assistant, sounding board, philosophical ruminator, and targeting computer. Since Tower is a bit of a shell-shocked veteran and not particularly restrained with his use of his trigger finger, Baby also tends to act as his conscience.
But Tower also has a secret. And someone has figured out his secret, and is ready to use it to enslave him and perhaps start a new war.
Interestingly enough, the space-opera aspect of the plot is almost window dressing – the core of the books is the murder mystery, and a murder mystery set in a society where information technology and networking have permeated every aspect of that society. The book could just as easily have been set fifteen years in the future on Earth, once Amazon figures out its delivery drones. Of course, every good science fiction book has a speculative question at its core, and in QUANTUM MORTIS: A MAN DISRUPTED the question revolves around the dangers of the information technology revolution.
It has been interesting watching SF wrestle with the question of the ongoing IT revolution of the last few decades, especially since society as a whole has not yet figured out how to deal with the Internet. If you read older science fiction, the computers of the future were supposed to be the computer from STAR TREK, Wintermute, and Tron-style virtual reality. No one anticipated the banal reality of YouTube, Hulu, Internet pornography, and people Instagramming pictures of their breakfast toast. All of a sudden, science fiction novels have to wrestle with a future containing smartphones and the Internet, and this book does a good job of grafting the IT revolution onto a space-opera framework.
Of course, the book isn’t all deep thoughts – there are a lot of battles with particle weapons, lasers, missiles, more particle weapons, and flying cars. Graven uses a lot of guns – the book achieves the rare trick of writing gun porn about guns that do not actually exist. It is an interesting look at the IT-augmented warfare of the future (or the present, really), when attacking the enemy’s computer systems is just as effective, if not more so, as attacking his troops and food supplies.
Tower’s relationship with the attractive Detector Hildreth was an interesting note – the adventure kicks off when Tower, hoping to get a date out of Hildreth, agrees to help her with a case. (Naturally, things go quickly awry.) The trick to writing effective romantic relationships (or failed attempts thereof) is to grasp the psychological differences between men and women without holding the differences in contempt or denying that they exist – a trick that too many writers never manage to master.
To sum up, GRAVITY KILLS and QUANTUM MORTIS: A MAN DISRUPTED are good adventure SF novels with a lot of action and a compelling mystery at the core, and I am looking forward to future books in the setting.